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2022 midterms produced more status quo than change

First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
Joni Ernst and Mitch McConnell during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol, on Nov. 16, 2022.
Joni Ernst and Mitch McConnell during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol, on Nov. 16, 2022.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Thursday ... NBC News projects that Republicans have won House control — eight days after Election Day. ... House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to address her future to colleagues, per NBC’s Ali Vitali, Haley Talbot and Ryan Nobles. ... Karen Bass wins  race for Los Angeles mayor. ... Legislation codifying protections for same-sex marriage clears Senate hurdle. ... Ukraine and allies  clash  over Poland blast. ... And $31 million has already been booked and spent over the advertising airwaves in Georgia Senate runoff.

But first: Republicans won the House; Democrats kept control of the Senate. 

Beyond that, however, what stands out is how little actually changed as a result of the 2022 midterms. 

Only seven House incumbents have lost re-election (five Democrats and two Republicans). 

Just one incumbent governor went down to defeat (Nevada Democrat Steve Sisolak). 

And not a single incumbent senator lost (though we’ll see if that holds in next month’s Georgia runoff). 

Maybe even more tellingly, 17 of 17 2020 Trump states elected a Republican senator (with the Alaska results still outstanding), while 15 of 16 Biden states elected a Democratic senator (with Wisconsin being the one exception).

Again, we’ll have to see if the Georgia runoff continues that Trump state vs. Biden state trend. 

As Bruce Mehlman, a Republican political and public-policy observer, puts it: 2022 was “the least change-y change election since 2002.”

We told you this before Election Day and we’ll say it again: The 2022 midterms — despite the billions spent and all of the maneuvering — barely shifted the battle lines in America’s political trench warfare since 2016.

After that Trump-vs.-Clinton presidential race six years ago, the House of Representatives has flipped twice (in 2018 and 2022); Republicans haven’t held more than 53 Senate seats; and Democrats haven’t held more than 50. 

So much has happened in our politics since 2016, but there’s been so little movement. 

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 12

That’s how many Senate Republicans voted Wednesday to advance a bill codifying federal same-sex marriage protections, all but guaranteeing its eventual passage. 

The Wednesday vote came after Senate negotiators decided earlier this year to punt the vote until after the midterm elections as they tried to garner support from at least 10 Senate Republicans to overcome the 60-vote filibuster.

The 12 Republicans who voted to advance the bill Wednesday, per NBC News’ Frank Thorp, included three retiring senators — Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Rob Portman of Ohio. The list also included senators from ruby-red states, including Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Mitt Romney of Utah and Todd Young of Indiana.

The other GOP senators backing the measure included Maine’s Susan Collins, Iowa’s Joni Ernst, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and North Carolina’s Thom Tillis.

Other numbers to know:

37: How many Senate Republicans supported Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for GOP leader, while 10 opposed him and one voted present, per the NBC News Capitol Hill team.

16: How many Senate Republicans supported an unsuccessful motion to delay leadership elections, per Thorp. 

14: That’s how many candidates who denied the 2020 election results were elected as governor, secretary of state or attorney general, per NBC News’ Adam Edelman.

0: How many women have ever served as mayor of Los Angeles. Karen Bass will be the first, NBC News’ Decision Desk projects. 

$850 million: How much two anonymous donors, with checks of more than $425 million each, donated to the conservative non-profit DonorsTrust, according to a tax filing first obtained by Politico.  

Midterm roundup: Seven House races still uncalled

A little more than a week after the polls closed, NBC News’ Decision Desk can now project that Republicans will take control of the House and its current House estimate is that the GOP will have a 221-214 majority, plus-or-minus two seats. 

It comes as there’s now just seven uncalled House races — the Decision Desk called California-27 for Republicans, and Maine-02 and California-49 for Democrats on Wednesday. 

Here’s a look at those final races that will decide how slim the GOP majority will be (guided, as always, by race ratings from The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter): 

Toss ups: 

CA-13: An open seat race with Republican John Duarte vs. Democrat Adam Gray.

CA-22: GOP Rep. David Valadao vs. Democrat Rudy Salas.

CA-47: Democratic Rep. Katie Porter vs. Republican Scott Baugh.

Other competitive races:

AK-AL: Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola vs. Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich and Libertarian Chris Bye.

CA-3: An open seat with Republican Kevin Kiley vs. Democrat Kermit Jones.

A surprisingly close race: 

CO-3: GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert vs. Democrat Adam Frisch.

Safe seat: 

CA-34: The Decision Desk hasn’t yet projected this seat President Biden won by 64 as ballots continue to be counted. But this race features two Democrats, Rep. Jimmy Gomez and David Kim, thanks to the state’s Top 2 primary system, so it will remain in Democratic hands. 

Runoff watch: The big money has landed

The cavalry is headed into the Georgia Senate runoff. NBC News’ Natasha Korecki reporting that Georgia Honor, the Senate Majority PAC-affiliated group (which backs Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock), is upping its ad reservations by $8.8 million after the top Senate GOP super PAC announced it was booking more than $14 million in ads there. 

Starting from the day after Election Day and including ad bookings through the runoff, there’s more than $31 million booked and spent on the airwaves for the runoff alone, per AdImpact. 

Meanwhile, in a new interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Warnock blasted Republican Herschel Walker and his allies, saying they “crossed a line where my family is concerned” by evoking his custody dispute with his ex-wife, who has accused him of running over her foot (Warnock denies the allegation). 

The Walker campaign hit back by saying Warnock “and his allies have no problem with Herschel’s family being attacked” and that “Warnock doesn’t want to be called names” (Democrats have highlighted allegations that Walker was violent with past partners and encouraged at least two women to get an abortion — allegations Walker denies). 

And coming to the stump this weekend — Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, fresh off his re-election, will campaign with Walker. 

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

A GOP-controlled House will bring plenty of investigations into the Biden administration, with some calling for Biden’s impeachment, per NBC News’ Scott Wong.

Two new subvariants of the Omicron strain of Covid-19 have become dominant in the U.S.

Republicans in Ohio are already eyeing Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown’s Senate seat as a top target 2024, with one unsuccessful 2022 candidate already considering a run, NBC News’ Henry Gomez reports.