US midterms winners and losers: Democrats hold key battlegrounds as Congress hangs in balance

ITV News US Correspondent Emma Murphy on a tight race for control of US Congress

The Democrats' worst fears have not materialised in the high-stakes US midterms, as President Joe Biden's party held on to key battlegrounds and saw off spirited Republican challenges as votes continued to be counted.

Control of Congress, made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate, still hangs in the balance but Democrats have showed unexpected resilience.

The party in power almost always suffers losses in the president’s first midterm elections and the night was predicted to be bruising for the Democrats with polls predicting a “red wave” amid soaring inflation.

But while it may be a while before it is known who has won control of the House and Senate, Mr Biden's administration has beaten back several Republican challengers in crucial House races.

In a critical win, Democrat John Fetterman flipped a Republican-held US Senate seat in Pennsylvania, beating Donald Trump-backed Republican celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz.

His win is key to the Democrats hopes of maintaining control of the upper chamber, while Mr Oz was one of several Trump candidates who failed to win.

It is too early to call critical Senate seats in Nevada, Georgia and Arizona which could determine the majority.

Currently, the Democrats are on 48 Senate seats and the Republicans are on 49, all three remaining seats could go either way.

The Republicans won a closely fought Senate race in Wisconsin late on Wednesday, giving them the lead.In the House, the lower house, Democrats kept seats in districts from Virginia to Kansas to Rhode Island, while many districts in states like New York and California have not been called.

The leader of the Democrat's national mid-term campaign, Sean Patrick Maloney lost if his seat in New York.

Alongside inflation and rising crime, abortion had a big impact on the midterm race with the issue one of the main drivers of high turnout in battleground Michigan

Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, who gained notoriety in her first term for incendiary rhetoric that edged into racism, antisemitism and conspiracy theories, has been re-elected in Georgia.

Democrats had been particularly livid about a Facebook ad on Greene’s mid-terms campaign page.

The image featured a photo of Greene holding a gun along images of Democratic Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. The ad included the caption: “Squad’s worst nightmare.”

But a broader relatively lacklustre Republican performance could take the wind out of Donald Trump's hopes for a second term.

The former president had endorsed more than 300 candidates in the midterm cycle and is hoping to use Republican victories as a springboard for a 2024 presidential campaign.

Donald Trump drums up support for Republican candidates at a rally in Iowa. Credit: AP

“Well, I think if they win, I should get all the credit. And if they lose, I should not be blamed at all. But it will probably be just the opposite,” Trump said in an interview with NewsNation.

Democrats kept seats in districts from Virginia to Kansas and Rhode Island and held a crucial Senate seat in New Hampshire, where incumbent Maggie Hassan defeated Republican Don Bolduc, a retired Army general who had initially promoted former President Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election.

Meanwhile, Republicans held Senate seats in Ohio and North Carolina.

In Pennsylvania, Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro beat Republican Doug Mastriano to keep the governorship of a key presidential battleground state blue.

Democrats Kathy Hochul of New York, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico and Janet Mills of Maine also repelled Republican challengers.

Georgia GOP Gov. Brian Kemp won reelection, defeating Stacey Abrams in a rematch of their 2018 race.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis and Texas governor Greg Abbott, two future possible Republican presidential contenders, beat back Democratic challengers to win in the nation’s two largest red states.

In Georgia, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker were vying for a seat that could determine control of the Senate.

The repeal of Roe v Wade cast a shadow over these midterms; overall, 7 in 10 voters said the ruling overturning the 1973 decision enshrining abortion rights was an important factor in their midterm decisions.

Restricting abortion rights even further was rejected in a state-wide referendum in usually Republican Kentucky.

Voters also were deciding high-profile races for Senate or governor in places such as Pennsylvania, Nevada, Wisconsin, Arizona and Michigan.

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In the first national election since the January 6 insurrection, some who participated in or were in the vicinity of the attack on the US Capitol were poised to win elected office, including several running for House seats.

In Ohio, Rep. Marcy Kaptur defeated Republican JR Majewski, who was at the US Capitol during the deadly riot and who misrepresented his military service.

Democratic Reps. Abigail Spanberger and Jennifer Wexton held off spirited Republican challengers in Virginia districts the GOP had hoped to flip.

All House seats were up for grabs, as were 34 Senate seats — with cliffhangers especially likely in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona.

Trump lifted two Republican Senate candidates to victory in Ohio and North Carolina. JD Vance, the bestselling author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” defeated 10-term congressman Tim Ryan, while Rep. Ted Budd beat Cheri Beasley, the former chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

Democrats easily repelled Republicans backed by Trump in several left-leaning states.

Despite their liberal history, states like Massachusetts, Maryland and Illinois have elected moderate Republican governors in the past. But the Republicans this year appeared to be too conservative in these states, handing Democrats easy victories in midterm elections that could otherwise prove difficult for the party.

Massachusetts and Maryland also saw historic firsts: Democrat Maura Healey became the first woman elected as Massachusetts governor, as well as the first openly lesbian governor of any state, and Wes Moore became the first Black governor of Maryland.

Ms Healey saw off Geoff Diehl in Massachusetts and Moore beat Dan Cox in Maryland, while Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker defeated state Sen. Darren Bailey. Bolduc, Cox and Bailey were among the far-right Republicans that Democrats spent tens of millions of dollars to bolster during the primaries, betting they would be easier to beat in general elections than their more moderate rivals.

It could be days or even weeks before races - and potentially, control of Congress - are decided.

Some states with mail voting, such as Michigan, saw an increase in ballot returns compared with the 2018 midterm.

Those votes can take longer to count because, in many states, ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday but might not arrive at election offices until days later.