Republicans win US House majority, setting stage for divided government
Republicans were projected to win a majority in the US House of Representatives on Wednesday, setting the stage for two years of divided government as President Joe Biden's Democratic Party held control of the Senate.
The victory gives Republicans the power to rein in Biden's agenda, as well as to launch potentially politically damaging probes of his administration and family, though it falls far short of the "red wave" the party had hoped for.
The final call came after more than a week of ballot counting, when Edison Research projected Republicans had won the 218 seats they needed to control the House. Republican victory in California's 27th Congressional district took the party over the line.
The party's current House leader, Kevin McCarthy, may have a challenging road ahead as he will need his restive caucus to hold together on critical votes including funding the government and military at a time when former President Donald Trump has launched another run for the White House.
While the loss takes away some of Biden's power in Washington, he has signaled he expects Republicans to cooperate. In a news conference last week, he said, "The American people have made clear, I think, that they expect Republicans to be prepared to work with me as well."
Democrats have been buoyed by voters' repudiation of a string of far-right Republican candidates, most of them allies of Trump, including Mehmet Oz and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania's Senate and governor's races respectively, and Blake Masters in Arizona's Senate contest.
Even though the expected "red wave" of House Republicans never reached shore, conservatives are sticking to their agenda.
In retaliation for two impeachment efforts by Democrats against Trump, they are gearing up to investigate Biden administration officials and the president's son Hunter's past business dealings – and even Biden himself.
On the international front, Republicans could seek to tamp down US military and economic aid to Ukraine.
The tug of inflation and abortion
The United States returns to its pre-2021 power-sharing in Washington as voters were tugged in opposite directions by two main issues during the midterm campaigns.
High inflation gave Republicans ammunition for attacking liberals, who won trillions of dollars in new spending during the COVID-19 pandemic. With voters seeing their monthly grocery, gasoline and rent bills rising, so rose the desire for punishing Democrats in the White House and Congress.
At the same time, there was a tug to the left after the Supreme Court's June ruling ending the right to abortion enraged a wide swath of voters, bolstering Democratic candidates.
Edison Research, in exit polls, found that nearly one-third of voters said inflation topped their concerns. For one-quarter of voters, abortion was the primary concern and 61 percent opposed the high-court decision in Roe v. Wade.
While the midterms were all about elections for the US Congress, state governors and other local offices, hovering over it all was the 2024 US presidential race.