That Was No Red Wave, But What Was It Exactly?


A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.

It’s a rip-roaring, bleary-eyed, all-nighter-after-rolling-the-clocks-back, caffeine-fueled Morning Memo. Pour yourself a cup of joe and let’s goooo!

Top Lines

SENATE: Control of the upper chamber still hangs in the balance. Everything remains in play: a Dem majority, a GOP majority, a 50-50 tie. More below.

HOUSE: Control of the lower chamber still technically hangs in the balance, but the most likely outcome seems to be a small, highly unmanageable, flaming shitshow of a GOP majority that would test the leadership skills of the greatest House speakers who ever lived. LOL Kevin McCarthy.

Wave? What Wave? It seems safe to say at this point that regardless of how the House and Senate turn out, the 2022 election defied the historical patterns for midterms. Democrats didn’t suffer the thumping, shellacking, or red wave that history suggested they were likely in for. It’s even more of a mixed picture when you drill into state-level races, with Democrats pulling off some major wins in governor’s races, wresting state legislative control away from the GOP in some states, and keeping some Big Lie adherents from overseeing elections.

Patience, Everyone! But but but … the exact contours of Tuesday’s results are still coming into focus, so let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. The specifics are infinitely more fascinating than mere wave or no wave. We embrace complexity!

Holy Crap Dems Can Still Win The Senate!

Okay, I hate to be the one to shatter your sense of peace and quiet at dawn, but a tie Senate is definitely in play. Maybe not the most likely outcome, but definitely not out of the picture.

Senate races remain uncalled in: GA, NV, AZ and WI. (Alaska too but let’s treat that as a GOP given).

At the moment, the incumbents look likely to prevail in AZ (Mark Kelly) and WI (Ron Johnson). Nevada remains too close to call, but incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto is currently trailing. Assuming those races remain unchanged (which I would not call a safe bet yet), that leaves Republicans with 50 seats, Democrats with 49 … with a Georgia runoff again to determine who controls the Senate. Amazing!

In that most likely scenario, the best outcome for Democrats is a tie, with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote. Just like now. Nothing will have changed after more than a billion dollars spent on Senate campaigns.

The next most likely scenario would be Cortez Masto eking out a win, giving Democrats 50 seats even before the Georgia runoff.

Let’s dig in a bit.

Another Georgia Runoff???

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) leads Herschel Walker (R) at the moment by 18,000 votes with 96% reporting. Neither looks likely to gain a majority of the vote, forcing yet another Georgia Senate runoff. The runoff election would be held on Dec. 6.

Nevada Too Close To Call

Of all the major Senate races, Nevada probably received the least attention. That doesn’t make this a surprise. It was generally seen as a close race, but it just didn’t garner the level of attention as Pennsylvania or Georgia. Partly that’s because the GOP nominee is a cipher. Adam Laxalt (R) carries the iconic Nevada surname, but has been largely disowned by his own family. He’s a total zero, but he’s currently leading Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (R) by 23,000 votes with 80% reporting.

Will RonJohn Hang On?

Sen. Ron Johnson (R) stopped short of declaring victory in a late night appearance before his supporters. Johnson leads Mandela Barnes (D) by 32,000 votes with 94% reporting. Still too close to call, but quite a hole for Barnes to climb out of.

Lot Going On In Arizona

Arizona has only counted 67% of the vote, so a lot still to be determined there.

Senate: Sen. Mark Kelly (D) looks likely to hang on against Blake Masters. Kelly leads by 106,000 votes.

Governor: Too close to call, but Katie Hobbs (D) leads the scariest of all the major candidate, Kari Lake, by 30,000 votes.

Secretary of State: Big Lie election denier Mark Finchem (R) is trailing by 101,000 votes.

Poor, Poor Kevin McCarthy

To re-emphasize, the House remains too close to call. But the mostly likely scenario is a narrow GOP majority that Kevin McCarthy has neither the political chops, the intellectual firepower, nor the good graces to lead effectively. It will be an utter and total mess in the House, with a mix of right-wing firebrands demanding ideological purity and very vulnerable new incumbents trying to avoid one-term ignominy. It will be a few days before we know with any certainty the actual breakdown of the new House.

What Happened To Lauren Boebert?

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) may end up as that rarest of birds: a right-wing firebrand who is also politically vulnerable. The craziest of the crazies in the House are by definition from the safest districts. So this is an unusual situation. Boebert is trailing by 3,500 votes with 90% reporting.

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