The results of Tuesday’s midterm elections are reverberating even as some important races — and control of Capitol Hill — remain in doubt.
Beyond those who simply won or lost their own races, here are some key figures who came out ahead, or behind, after voters cast their verdicts.
President Joe Biden
Biden’s political obituary has been written many times over the years, dating back to his first run for the presidency a generation ago. He bounces back again and again.
Going into Tuesday, there were dire expectations for Democrats.
It was considered very plausible that the president’s party could lose 25 or 30 seats in the House and be relegated to a clear minority in the Senate.
Such an outcome would have been cast as a public repudiation of Biden, increasing pressure on him to step aside rather than seek a second term.
But none of it happened.
Whatever the final results, Biden has fared far better in his first midterms than the two most recent Democratic presidents, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, did in theirs.
That’s vindication, of a kind, for Biden’s much-criticized but steady, low-wattage approach.
It also relieves a lot of the pressure regarding 2024. He’ll be the Democratic nominee if he wants to be.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R)
DeSantis was the big Republican winner on an otherwise disappointing night for the GOP.
The Florida governor won a second term by a resounding margin of around 20 points — in a state that was, at least until this Election Day, still considered a battleground, albeit a Republican-leaning one.
DeSantis, who enrages liberals with his stances on migration, voting regulations and education, showed his electoral appeal in other ways too. He carried the heavily Hispanic Miami-Dade County in South Florida, for example.
DeSantis is widely assumed to be eying a 2024 presidential bid. He would be the most serious rival to former President Trump if both men enter the race.
He helped his case immeasurably on Tuesday.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
The Speaker, like the president, was being largely written off until voters actually cast their ballots.
Her near-20-year run leading House Democrats might still come to an end — but, if it does, it will be a decision of Pelosi’s own choosing rather than one that is forced upon her.
Democrats are still expected to fall into the minority in the lower chamber. But Democrats will hold on to more seats than they thought.
Pelosi has also publicly said that the home invasion and attack on her husband at their San Francisco home will be a factor in her decision on whether to stay in the House — despite an agreement with other Democrats meant to end her Speakership. Paul Pelosi was hit in the head with a hammer by the intruder, who had asked if “Nancy” was home.
It wouldn’t be all that surprising if Pelosi decided to stay in the House.
Abortion rights activists
Proponents of abortion rights probably don’t feel much like winners as a year that saw the overturning of Roe v. Wade nears its close.
But Election Day gave them considerable comfort.
Many states will be protected from the most prohibitive effects of the June Supreme Court ruling.
Some vigorous supporters of abortion rights were reelected as governor on Tuesday, notably Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer and New York’s Kathy Hochul.
In another major development, five states held ballot measures, different in their specific wording but all centered on the abortion question. The pro-abortion rights side won at least four of them — no surprise in liberal redoubts California and Vermont but much more striking in Kentucky and, to some degree, Michigan. The liberal side is also in the lead in the fifth state, Montana.
Taken together, the results are a clear demonstration of where the public stands on the issue — even if a majority of Supreme Court justices don’t see things the same way.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)
To say Tuesday offered a mixed bag for McCarthy would be putting it mildly.
On one hand, it seems more likely than not that the GOP will eventually end up holding the House majority — theoretically putting McCarthy within reach of the Speaker’s gavel that he has long coveted.
But the GOP majority, if it comes into existence at all, will be very thin. That makes even McCarthy’s elevation as Speaker uncertain. And, if he does secure the spot, he will have to contend with members of his own party who know just how much leverage they hold — and intend to use it.
Meanwhile, there is already some carping about McCarthy’s leadership and strategy — including the apparent failure of his “Commitment to America” to fire voters’ imaginations.
The verdict on the vexing issues of election denialism, threats to democracy and flat-out conspiracy theories was, ultimately, ambiguous.
Several people who hew to those kinds of views lost, including Doug Mastriano (R), who was heavily defeated by Democrat Josh Shapiro in the race to be Pennsylvania’s governor, and Don Bolduc, who failed to run Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) anywhere near as close as some Republicans had hoped.
At time of writing, Kari Lake, though very competitive in the Arizona gubernatorial race, is narrowly trailing in a race that polls had predicted she would win.
All of that being said, the sheer spread of election denialism, and the extent to which it has become normalized within the GOP, are worrisome signs for American democracy.
A Washington Post analysis in October found 291 Republican candidates for House, Senate or “key statewide offices” had “denied or questioned the outcome of the last presidential election.”
Former President Donald Trump
Tuesday was a pretty dismal night for the former president.
It wasn’t only that some of his most high-profile picks lost, such as Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, or are trailing, like Lake and Blake Masters in Arizona.
It’s that the results writ large amount to a bad verdict on his overall effect on the GOP’s direction and brand. Trumpism had a very poor day at the polls.
DeSantis’s impressive victory only deepened the gloom for the former president, who is apparently threatened enough by the Florida governor to have recently bestowed a nickname upon him.
The expectation is still that Trump will launch a 2024 presidential campaign later this month.
But he had hoped to pick up a tailwind with strong results on Tuesday.
The opposite happened.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.)
Maloney lost his bid for reelection to Republican Mike Lawler, a state assemblyman, in New York’s 17th District.
That made him one of the most high-profile Democratic losers of the night. It was a bitter irony for Maloney, given that the nationwide results would otherwise have been a feather in his cap as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Maloney has served in Congress for 10 years, but his controversial move to a new district after New York’s congressional map was redrawn ended in failure.