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Voters who 'somewhat' disapproved of Biden broke for Democrats

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.
Image: Americans Head To The Polls To Vote In The 2022 Midterm Elections
Americans vote at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens polling place in Madison, Wis., on Nov. 8, 2022.Jim Vondruska / Getty Images

WASHINGTON —  If it’s Thursday ... Control of both House and Senate remains uncalled. ... GOP needs to win eight of 33 undecided House races for a majority, while Democrats need to win 26 of them. ... In Arizona Senate, Sen. Mark Kelly leads Blake Masters, 51%-46%, with 76% in. ... In Nevada Senate, Republican Adam Laxalt is ahead of Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto by 15,800 votes, but bulk of what’s left are mail-in ballots from Clark and Washoe counties. ... Georgia Senate heads to Dec. 6 runoff. ... And President Biden, after celebrating his party's midterm performance, departs for overseas trip to Egypt and Cambodia.

But first: So how did Democrats defy historical trends and overperform in a midterm election when President Biden’s approval rating stood at 44%, according to the national exit poll? 

Answer: They narrowly won what turned out to be the true swing voters in this election — those who “somewhat” disapproved of Biden. 

They made up 10% of all voters, and they broke for Democratic candidates over Republicans by 4 points nationally, 49%-45%. 

And check out how these “somewhat disapprovers of Biden” split their tickets in the key contests. 

In Georgia, they backed Republican Brian Kemp over Democrat Stacey Abrams in the gubernatorial race by 16 points, 57%-41%.

But in Georgia’s Senate race, they preferred Raphael Warnock over Herschel Walker, 50%-44%. That’s a 22-point swing. 

In New Hampshire, GOP Gov. Chris Sununu easily won these voters (59%-39%), but so did Democrat Sen. Maggie Hassan (72%-25%). 

In Nevada, GOP gubernatorial nominee Joe Lombardo carried them (52%-40%), but so did Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (47%-44%). 

And in Wisconsin, GOP Sen. Ron Johnson won them (51%-48%), as did Democratic Gov. Tony Evers (56%-41%). 

GOP strategist David Kanevsky makes an important observation here: These “somewhat disapprovers” broke decisively against candidates made in Donald Trump’s image, but backed non-Trump/less-Trumpy Republicans. 

And that might be the most crucial story of these midterms.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 6

That’s the number of Republicans who lost their races whom Democrats had elevated in their primary races — despite these candidates’ history of casting doubt on the 2020 election results. 

Democrats tried to boost these candidates in key races in the hopes that general election voters would deem them too extreme, and the tactic (albeit controversial on both the right and left) appears to have worked. 

In the Illinois governor's race, the party spent more than $19.5 million to undercut the GOP primary frontrunner, Richard Irvin, and pave the way for GOP state Sen. Darren Bailey’s surprise victory. 

Democrats also won Maryland Governor race after elevating state Del. Dan Cox — who called then-Vice President Mike Pence a “traitor” while traveling to the D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021. They won New Hampshire Senate after boosting retired Army brigadier Gen. Don Bolduc, who emphasized during his primary his belief Biden didn’t legitimately win the 2020 race. And they won Pennsylvania Governor, where Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s campaign ran ads emphasizing state Sen. Doug Mastriano’s conservative credentials while he was trying to close out his GOP primary. 

The tactic was also successful in New Hampshire-02, as well as Michigan-03, where Democrats helped boost a Republican challenging GOP Rep. Peter Meijer, who had voted to impeach former President Donald Trump. 

Other numbers to know:

222: That’s the NBC News Decision Desk’s current estimate of how many seats Republicans will win when the dust settles on the midterms — with a key caveat, plus-or-minus seven seats. A party needs 218 seats to control the House. 

20: That’s the number of seats Democrats won in the Michigan State Senate, which in addition to the 56 seats they won in the state’s House, led them to win control of the state legislature for the first time in almost 40 years, based on races called by the Associated Press.

80%: How much value the crypto exchange FTX lost between Monday and Tuesday, as the prominent exchange continues to face a severe liquidity crunch. 

Midterm roundup: There are 39 races that NBC News hasn’t called

More races have been called since Wednesday morning, with the Georgia Senate race heading to a runoff and the ranked-choice process set to decide Alaska’s Senate race. 

That leaves four gubernatorial races, two Senate contests and 33 House races have not been called yet by the NBC News Decision Desk. In the Senate, if Democrats hold onto Arizona and Nevada, they retain control of the Senate, regardless of what happens in the Georgia runoff. 

In the House, Republicans have to win eight of the 33 uncalled seats to get to 218 (and thus the majority), while Democrats would have to win 26 of the remaining races to hold onto the chamber. Twenty of the uncalled House races are held by Democrats, 10 are held by Republicans, and three are brand new seats due to reapportionment. 

Here’s a look at the uncalled races per the NBC News Decision Desk as of 7:00 a.m. ET:

Statewide races (6): 

Too close to call: The three-way race in Oregon Governor has been deemed too close to call, with Democratic Tina Kotek holding a narrow lead over Republican Christine Drazen and independent Betsy Johnson pulling roughly 9% of the vote.  

Too early to call: Alaska Governor (72% of the expected vote is in); Arizona Senate and Arizona Governor (76% of the vote is in); and Nevada Senate and Nevada Governor (84% is in).

Toss up House races, per the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter (15):

  • AZ-1: GOP Rep. David Schweikert vs. Democrat Jevin Hodge.
  • 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-27: GOP Rep. Mike Garcia vs. Democrat Christie Smith.
  • CA-47: Democratic Rep. Katie Porter vs. Republican Scott Baugh.
  • CA-49: Democratic Rep. Mike Levin vs. Republican Bryan Maryott.
  • CO-8: A new seat, featuring Democrat Yadira Caraveo vs. Republican Barb Kirkmeyer.
  • CT-5: Democratic Rep. Jahana Hayes vs. Republican George Logan. 
  • ME-2: Democratic Rep. Jared Golden vs. Republican Bruce Poliquin. 
  • NM-2: GOP Rep. Yvette Herrell vs. Democrat Gabriel Vasquez. 
  • NV-1: Democratic Rep. Dina Titus vs. Republican Mark Robertson.
  • NV-3: Democratic Rep. Susie Lee vs. Republican April Becker.
  • NY-22: An open seat with Democrat Francis Conole vs. Republican Brandon Williams.
  • OR-6: A new district with Democrat Andrea Salinas vs. Republican Mike Erickson.
  • WA-8: Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier vs. Republican Matt Larkin.

Other competitive House races (12):

  • AK-AL: Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola vs. Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich and Libertarian Chris Bye.
  • AZ-6: An open seat with Republican Juan Ciscomani vs. Democrat Kirsten Engel.
  • CA-3: An open seat with Republican Kevin Kiley vs. Democrat Kermit Jones. 
  • CA-9: Democratic Rep. Josh Harder vs. Republican Tom Patti.
  • CA-26: Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley vs. Republican Matt Jacobs. 
  • CA-41: GOP Rep. Ken Calvert vs. Democrat Will Rollins.
  • CA-45: GOP Rep. Michelle Steel vs. Democrat Jay Chen.
  • MD-6: Democratic Rep. David Trone vs. Republican Neil Parrot.
  • MT-1: A new seat, with Republican Ryan Zinke vs. Democrat Monica Tranel.
  • NV-4: Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford vs. Republican Sam Peters.
  • OR-5: An open seat, with Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer.
  • WA-3: An open seat, with Republican Joe Kent vs. Democrat Marie Gluesnekamp Perez.

Potential surprise (1):

CO-3: This race wasn’t expected to be competitive, but GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert is in a very close race against Democrat Adam Frisch, with Frisch leading Boebert by just 64 votes.  

Safe districts (5):

Five Democratic California districts — CA-6, CA-15, CA-21, CA-34, CA-37 — have not been called. Biden won them by between 18 and 73 points. Three of those five feature Democrat vs. Democrat contests, thanks to the state’s Top 2 primary, so those will stay in the Democratic column. 

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Former President Donald Trump is considering delaying the announcement of his 2024 presidential run after some Republicans blamed him yesterday for a worse than expected outcome in the midterm elections, the Washington Post reports. 

Some U.S. and Western officials are eying a winter slowdown in the war between Russia and Ukraine as a perfect time to begin diplomatic talks about resolving the conflict, NBC News’ Courtney Kube, Carol E. Lee and Josh Lederman report.

The suspect in the attack on Paul Pelosi has been indicted on federal charges.

WNBA star Brittany Griner, who has been in detention in Russia since February, is being moved to a penal colony, her attorneys said Wednesday.