With the cramped house and an even distribution SenateDemocrats could easily see their fragile grip on power slipping when faced with a new generation of Republican candidates. Among them are political newcomers to public office, including skeptics, deniers of the 2020 election and some extremists inspired by Donald trump card. They could give Capitol Hill a new intensity with promises to end Biden’s once lofty ideas and initiate investigations and surveillance — even, possibly, impeachment of Biden.
Tuesday brings the first major national election since the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, and emotions are raw. The violent attack on Chairman Nancy Pelosi’s husband has stunned many, and federal police are warning of heightened national threats. Biden’s party is trying to hold on by the narrowest margins.
All 435 seats in the House and one-third of the Senate are contested. If Republican newcomers help the party seize control of the House and possibly the Senate, the outcome will pose new challenges to Congress’s ability to govern.
“I really think this is going to be a term of office that’s defined by conflict,” said Brendan Buck, a former top aide to the past two Republican speakers of the House.
A divided government has historically provided the opportunity for bipartisan deals, but the Republican candidates are instead campaigning on a platform to stop the Democrats.
Without a common agenda of their own, Republicans are running into crises and confrontations as they promise to cut federal spending, refuse to raise the country’s debt limit and hesitate to support Ukraine in the war with Russia. It all points to a possible future stalemate.
“They’re going to make it very clear that there’s a new sheriff in town,” Buck said.
House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, who is lining up to grab Pelosi’s gavel next year if Democrats lose power, has recruited the most racially diverse class of House GOP candidates, with more women than ever. But it also has a new cadre of Trump loyalists, including election skeptics and deniers, some who gathered around the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Trump has approved nearly 200 House and Senate Republicans for the final ballots, even though they weren’t always the first picks of McCarthy and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell as they work to bolster their ranks.
A sign of the nation’s toxic political climate, Pelosi canceled most public appearances in the campaign’s final week after an intruder broke into her family’s San Francisco home in the middle of the night, demanding “Where’s Nancy” and her 82-year-old man in the head with a hammer. Authorities say it was a deliberate attack.
“People say to me, ‘What can I do to make you feel better?'” Pelosi told grassroots activists during a video call. “I say, ‘Vote!'”
As polls close on the East Coast on Tuesday night, results in some of the early races before Congress may begin to set the pace.
In the battle for the House, Virginia’s big race between Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria and Republican Challenger Jen Kiggans, both Navy veterans, a snapshot. Two-year-old Democrat Luria, who was first elected to the opposition to Trump in 2018, rose as part of the commission investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot but now faces the risk of being defeated.
The Senate battleground is centered on four heavily contested states where razor-thin margins could determine the outcome — in Georgia, Arizona and Nevada, where Democratic incumbents are trying to hold on. In Pennsylvania, the race between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz for a free seat is considered the key to party control.
Another Senate race that will be closely watched is in New Hampshire, where Trump-style Republican Don Bolduc seeks to oust Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan in a race that could signal the former president’s viability among voters. two years after he left office.
Vote counting could extend beyond Election Day in many states, and Georgia, in particular, could continue on Dec. 6 if no candidate wins a majority. Both sides have already filed legal objections in some cases, foreshadowing the court battles that could delay the final results.
Republicans need a net gain of five seats in the House to gain the majority of 218 seats and a net gain of one to seize control of the Senate. The 50-50 Senate is now in Democratic hands as Vice President Kamala Harris can cast a decisive vote in what has been one of the longest stretches of a Senate split in modern times.
Inflation, abortion, crime and the future of democracy have all been at the forefront of campaigns as candidates strive to reach voters.
Democrats gained momentum on the abortion issue after the Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision this summer, and they have warned voters against MAGA conservatives, short for Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
But Republicans have turned voters’ attention to issues closer to home — the high prices of inflation and crime — while tapping into unease about the country’s direction.
Republican Senate leader McConnell openly lamented the “quality of the candidate” that could potentially cost his party victories as Trump defended his preferred candidates to create a potentially untested class of newcomers.
House Democrats faced their own recruiting problems, a situation made worse by the many Democratic retirements as longtime lawmakers headed for the exits, some giving up their commission hammers rather than accepting minority party careers.
In a dramatic example of the difficult political environment for Democrats, the party’s House campaign chairman, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, for political survival against Republican state legislator Mike Lawler in New York’s Hudson Valley. He would be the first Democratic campaign manager to suffer a defeat in 20 years.
Outside groups have deposited hundreds of millions of dollars, often to support untested candidates, with mixed results.
“I find it almost comical that Republicans and Democrats are talking about what they’re going to do in the new Congress,” said Rory Cooper, a former Republican leadership aide to the House. “Neither side will get anything done unless Joe Biden has one last two-pronged deal in him.”