5 key takeaways from the U.S. midterms now that we have clearer results

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We’re finally close to having the full results of the U.S. midterm elections one week after the vote, allowing a fuller picture of the fallout.

Congress will be split.

It’s almost certain Republicans will gain a thin majority in the House of Representatives, with a surprisingly tiny margin ranging between two and five seats, one of the smallest in history.

Democrats will keep controlling, barely, the Senate: they’ll either tie again or gain a one-seat advantage depending on the results of a runoff next month in Georgia

Democrats might be celebrating: in the face of high inflation and low approval ratings, they enjoyed arguably their best result in generations in a Democratic president’s first midterm.

But defeat still has its consequences. Here are several from this election — for both parties, for the U.S. and for Canada.

Trump: He’s got new troubles

Former president Donald Trump had big plans for this week: Declare victory in the midterms and launch a political comeback in the post-election glow.

The launch isn’t going as planned.

Trump may announce another presidential run Tuesday night. He might still be the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination. But the betting markets have soured on him; he’s no longer the sure bet he seemed just days ago. 

Trump plans to announce his political comeback from his Florida mansion, seen here Tuesday. The midterm results have not helped him. (Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press)

He’s being mocked and blamed in newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch as the reason Republicans struggled, accused of backing fringe figures who under-performed

His former speechwriter said he can’t ever win another election. 

Republican politicians are being more openly critical or are distancing themselves. 

In one of several examples, there’s the moderate governor who easily won re-election in New Hampshire while a fellow Republican, a Trump-type candidate, lost a Senate race in the same state.

“[Trump’s] announcing he’s going to run for president at a low point in his political career. I don’t know how that’s going to work out, man,” that governor, Chris Sununu, told The Washington Post. 

Several surveys suggest Trump is newly vulnerable, and that he could lose the presidential nomination in a one-on-one battle. A poll commissioned by Texas Republicans, a poll by the conservative group Club For Growth, and a YouGov poll all show him trailing Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in a hypothetical 2024 primary matchup. 

“We’re not a cult,” Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy told NBC’s Meet The Press, rejecting the idea that Trump leads the party.

“Our party should be about the future. I think our next candidate will be looking to the future, not to the past.”

Biden’s bills: Blocked

President Joe Biden’s recent legislative hot streak is about to run out. There’s a reason his party wants to ram through some spending bills before Jan. 3 — because, at that point, Republicans will take control of the House of Representatives.

And one chamber is all it takes for Republicans to block bills.

“They’re going to have a hair-thin, but workable majority,” Greg Shaw, an expert on congressional procedure at Illinois Wesleyan University, told CBC News.

WATCH | How to make sense of the U.S. midterm results:

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The wafer-thin margin has prompted speculation about whether they could lose the majority within months, and see Democrats catapulted back into power.

Three experts on congressional procedure that CBC news spoke with all agreed it’s unlikely to happen through procedural power grabs: either a motion to vacate the chair and dump the speaker, or by using discharge petitions to require votes on bills Democrats want passed.

They agreed the only way Democrats will regain power these next two years is if several members of the majority resign, retire or die. That prospect becomes more remote with every additional seat Republicans win beyond the majority of 218.

“My best guess is the [Republican] speaker will be able to hold on — barely, messily — for two years,” said Eric Schickler of the University of California at Berkeley.

Among the two more pertinent considerations for the rest of the world involve funding bills: Will the U.S. keep funding Ukraine? And will the U.S. pass budgets that avert economic crises over the debt ceiling, and government shutdowns?

Come January, the chamber will be subject to the occasionally messy internal politics of the Republican caucus. Recall that the last two Republican Speakers both quit politics while facing sporadic rebellions from harder-right members.

There are already disagreements brewing. Backbenchers want concessions in exchange for supporting House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy’s leadership.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy will almost certainly become the House speaker. Congressional-watchers expect him to retain control for two years. (J. Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press)

One demand: giving individual members, not party leaders, control over whether to vote on the aforementioned vacate-the-chair motions. 

Another emerging debate is how aggressively to investigate President Joe Biden’s son for his international financial dealings or even try impeaching the president.

One congressional expert predicted investigations will be the easy part for them; she said it will be simpler to rally every Republican around that than around passing bills. But she said the Republicans will still wield power — because they’ll control the chamber.

“You have the gavel,” said Molly E. Reynolds of the Brookings Institution in Washington.

A flood of Democratic-appointed judges

Biden has appointed a historically high number of judges in his first term. It’s likely to continue. This may even accelerate as it becomes a top priority for Democrats in the potential absence of major legislation.

The Senate confirms judicial picks, and Democrats just won it again.

The party is keen on reshaping the judiciary after suffering a string of defeats in conservative courts, over abortion, guns and climate regulations.

Republicans blocked Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick, Merrick Garland, left, seen in 2016 — because they controlled the Senate. They won’t now. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The task becomes even easier if they win the Dec. 6 runoff in Georgia. Gaining a 51st seat means they won’t need to rely on Sen. Joe Manchin to win votes. It would buy space for Manchin to focus on his own re-election in 2024.

What happens in Georgia next month could affect the outcome in 2024. Democrats are in serious danger of losing seats in 2024; they’ll be defending seats they have in conservative states like Montana, Ohio, and Manchin’s seat in West Virginia.

Picking up a 51st seat next month, in Georgia, buys them a slightly bigger buffer as they gird for a bruising battle in two years.

“It’s one fewer seat you have to worry about defending down the line,” Reynolds told CBC News.

Election-deniers drubbed

Perhaps the most consequential development of this election involves the very administration of democratic elections.

Conspiracy-theorists and election-deniers, including a militia member, people at the Capitol on Jan. 6, people still talking about overturning the 2020 election — these people were running to run elections in presidential swing states.

We’ll never know what effect this might have had on the next presidential election. Because election-deniers, as a group, got drubbed.

Most Republicans did well in Arizona. The party gained seats. But that wasn’t true for hard-core, pro-Trump election-deniers like Mark Finchem and Kari Lake, pictured here, who narrowly lost her gubernatorial bid. ( Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Of six swing states where those people ran to become (or appoint) their state’s secretary of state, they went zero for six.

They did win some red states. But they lost the states that decide presidential elections. 

Most accepted defeat by conceding. There were rare exceptions like Mark Finchem of Arizona, a militia member and state lawmaker who responded by spreading QAnon memes and new conspiracy theories.

But their brand of politics suffered a setback.

“Thank the Lord it did not prevail,” Democratic Senate whip Dick Durbin said in a congressional speech.

“The takeaway here is not all that complicated. I hope it’s one our Republican colleagues will finally take to heart: It’s time to reject that extremist lie.”

Status quo for Canada

In Michigan, the one state with the potentially greatest effect on Canada, nothing changed. And, in fact, the Democrats not only held the governorship but gained control of the legislature for the first time in decades.

“We swept everything,” Jim Blanchard, former U.S. ambassador to Canada, who was Michigan’s Democratic governor the last time his party controlled the legislature, told a Canada-U.S. law conference in Washington last week.

“That was not expected.”

WATCH | What’s at stake for Canada in the midterms:

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Chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton breaks down how Tuesday night’s results in the U.S. midterm elections might be felt north of the border.

He predicted his current-day successor, Gretchen Whitmer, could be a presidential candidate some day.

For now, however, she’s an adversary of the Government of Canada on the issue of Line 5: an east-west pipeline she wants to cancel. Her re-election means a continued court fight over the pipeline.

The feud over the Line 5 oil pipeline continues, because Michigan’s Democratic governor was re-elected. (Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy/The Associated Press)

Michigan voters also passed a referendum measure to protect abortion rights in the state. This now prevents a nearly century-old anti-abortion law in the state from snapping back into place with the end of Roe v. Wade.

It has alleviated concerns in Ontario about an influx of women seeking abortions across the border in Windsor, and straining services there.

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