IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Democrats’ enthusiasm and polarization trump the midterm fundamentals

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.
Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman arrives for an election night party on Nov. 9, 2022, in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman arrives for an election night party on Nov. 9, 2022, in Pittsburgh, Pa.Jeff Swensen / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Wednesday ... The battle for control of the U.S. House still hasn’t been called. ... Senate control still hangs in the balance. ... Democrat John Fetterman wins Pennsylvania Senate, NBC News projects. ... Georgia Senate is “too close to call” (and eventual runoff looks likely), and so is Wisconsin Senate. ... Arizona and Nevada Senate remain “too early to call.” ... Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio cruise to victory in Florida. ... Republican J.D. Vance wins in Ohio Senate, while Democratic governors Gretchen Whitmer and Tony Evers hold on in Michigan and Wisconsin. ... And the shocker of last night: GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert trails in Colorado-03, while DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney is behind in New York-13.

But first: Polarization trumped the fundamentals Tuesday.  

After our final national NBC News poll, we asked which would be the bigger force on Election Night — the fundamentals (which were pointing in the Republicans’ direction) or the polarization (the increased Democratic enthusiasm that could limit the GOP’s gains)?

Well, with the House and Senate still uncalled this morning, what stands out to us is that Democratic enthusiasm, that polarization and the fact that many of Donald Trump’s candidates struggled more than the non-Trump ones (like Govs. Ron DeSantis and Brian Kemp).  

Looking back at last 10 days of the 2022 campaign, two things changed: The attack on Paul Pelosi and Donald Trump’s return to the campaign trail as he flirted with announcing a presidential bid. 

Trump’s return, in fact, might have been the best closing argument Democrats could have asked for.  

Some questions we’re pondering this morning: 

  • Just how weak is Trump within his own party? We’ve been here before where Republicans have had their shot to shove him aside. They now have another shot.
  • If Republicans eventually win the House, can Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy get 218 votes to become speaker? Even if he does, can he govern his majority assuming he does get it?
  • Given their better-than-expected night, do Democrats wish they had spent more in North Carolina Senate?
  • And will Democrats now rally around Biden? Will this surprising result allow Dems to paper over their divides yet again?  

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 220

That’s the projected size of the GOP House majority, per NBC News’ Decision Desk as of 7:00 a.m. ET — plus or minus 10 seats. The Decision Desk has not yet called which party will control the House, with the battle for the House coming down to a race-by-race fight. 

A 220-seat majority would be a net gain of just eight House seats. Democrats’ projected House number is 215 seats, just three seats shy of the 218 needed for a majority. 

If that projection holds, that would be a much smaller gain than Republicans were expecting, with most analysts expecting at least double-digit gains. Many competitive seats have not yet been called, but the handful of toss up races called so far have unexpectedly broken towards Democrats.

Midterm roundup: Our 25 key races

Back in September we listed 25 key races that were crucial to understanding the midterms. So far, just 13 have been called. Democrats have won seven of those races, while Republicans have won six. 

Here’s a look at the results in some of the other key contests, with the projected winners and vote shares per NBC’s Decision Desk as of 7:00 a.m. ET: 

Arizona Senate: Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly (52%) leads Republican Blake Masters (46%) in this “too-early-to-call race.”

Florida Senate: Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (58%) defeated Democratic Rep. Val Demings (41%). 

Georgia Senate: Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock leads Republican Herschel Walker by just 18,000 votes, good for half a percentage point, in a too-close-to-call race with both candidates drawing about 49% (shy of the majority needed to avoid a runoff). 

Nevada Senate: Republican Adam Laxalt (50%) leads Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (47%) in a race deemed too early to call, with some 20% of the vote still to be counted. 

New Hampshire Senate: Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan (54%) prevailed against Republican Don Bolduc (44%). 

North Carolina Senate: GOP Rep. Ted Budd defeated Democrat Cheri Beasley, 51% to 47%.

Ohio Senate: “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance defeated Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, 53% to 47%.

Pennsylvania Senate: Democratic Lt. Gen. John Fetterman won his race over Republican Mehmet Oz, 50% to 47.5%. 

Wisconsin Senate: Republican Sen. Ron Johnson is locked in a too-close-to-call race against Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes 50.5% to 49.3%. 

Arizona Governor: Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (51%) leads Republican Kari Lake (49%) in this too-early-to-call race. 

Florida Governor: GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis (59%) defeated former Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist (40%). 

Georgia Governor: GOP Gov. Brian Kemp (53%) defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams (46%). 

Kansas Governor: This race is still too close to call. With 93% of the vote in, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly is leading GOP state Attorney General Derek Schmidt, 49% to 48%.

Michigan Governor: Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer won re-election, defeating conservative commentator Tudor Dixon, 53% to 45%. 

Nevada Governor: This race is too early to call. With 80% of the vote in, GOP Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo (51%) is leading Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak (46%).

Pennsylvania Governor: Democratic Lt. Gov. Josh Shapiro defeated GOP state Sen. Doug Mastriano, 55%-43%. 

Wisconsin Governor: Democratic Gov Tony Evers (51%) defeated Republican businessman Tim Michels (48%).

California-22: Just 30% of the vote is in so far, and GOP Rep. David Valadao is leading Democratic Assemblyman Rudy Salas, 54% to 46%.

Colorado-08: The race for this new district has not yet been called. With just 65% of the expected vote counted, Democratic state Rep. Yadira Caraveo is leading GOP state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, 49% to 47%.                                                  

Minnesota-02: Democratic Rep. Angie Craig (51%) prevailed in a rematch against GOP Marine veteran Tyler Kistner (46%), with a deceased third party candidate getting 3% of the vote.

Nebraska-02: With 89% of the expected vote in, GOP Rep. Don Bacon is leading Democratic state Sen. Tony Vargas 52% to 48%. The race has not yet been called.

North Carolina-13: Democratic state Sen. Wiley Nickel (51%) defeated Republican Bo Hines (49%) in this toss up race. 

Nevada-03: This race has not yet been called, but Democratic Rep. Susie Lee is at 50% of the vote, and is leading Republican April Becker by roughly 5,700 votes with 86% of the expected vote counted. 

Pennsylvania-08: This race has not yet been called, but Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright is leading Republican Jim Bognet 51% to 49%.

Virginia-02: Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria lost her re-election race to fellow Navy veteran Jen Kiggans, who won 52% of the vote to Luria’s 48%. 

Ad watch: Abortion, inflation dominated ads in final months

With Election Day behind us (even though we don’t know the result of every race yet), voters in most states can at least rest easy knowing that they’ll be spared from campaign ads for at least a few months.

In the last few weeks, voters overwhelmingly saw ads about inflation, abortion and crime on their TVs. From September through Nov. 7, 654 of 3,295 total, unique ads for House, Senate and governor mentioned abortion, 575 mentioned inflation, and 545 mentioned crime.

Those ended up being the resounding issues propelling voters to the polls on and before Tuesday, with 31% of voters interviewed in exit polls saying that the issue of inflation affected their vote. Twenty-seven percent of voters interviewed said abortion was the leading issue in deciding whom to support.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Two people died in a shooting at the Dallas medical examiner’s office on Tuesday.

Tropical storm Nicole is approaching Florida and will likely strengthen into a hurricane before it makes landfall.

A single ticket sold in California had the numbers to win the $2.04 billion Powerball jackpot.