Democratic hopes for Senate control grow as two states count votes
Democrats grew more optimistic Thursday about retaining control of the Senate as votes were counted in Arizona and Nevada, after claiming vital wins in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania and watching the Georgia race go to a December runoff.
Republicans need to flip at least one seat to take control of the chamber, but their path appeared to be narrowing Thursday, with Democrats holding a shrinking but lasting lead in Arizona and picking up mail-in ballots in Nevada at a rate that appeared to slight advantage. GOP odds of success were bigger in the Housewhere the fun is won or led 221 racesjust three more than needed to reoccupy the chamber.
In the Senate, “I think we have a very legitimate chance of increasing our majority from 50 to 51,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, pointing to figures in Arizona, Georgia and Nevada. “Very few people would have given us that chance before the election.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, checks in with Democrats in Arizona and Nevada every few hours, said the spokesman, who grew more optimistic with each phone call. On Wednesday, Mr. Schumer told reporters he “feels good” about the Senate holdup.
If Democrats prevail in Arizona and Nevada, they will take control of the Senate even before the Georgia runoff. This would lower the stakes in the Dec. 6 rematch between Sen. Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker, who earned significantly fewer votes than Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday. But it’s not clear whether that option would benefit Democrats or Republicans. Neither party is taking any chances: Mr. Schumer has started raising money for Mr. Warnock, and Senate Republicans are doing the same for Mr. Walker.
“For the Democrats to be in this position now, everything had to go right for them on election night,” said Jessica Taylor, a Senate analyst on The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter. “And everything went right for them on election night.”
She added, referring to Arizona and Nevada, “I think they’re going to win both races.”
In Arizona, Sen. Mark Kelly was comfortably ahead of Blake Masters, his Republican opponent, with 70 percent of the ballots counted. The leadership of Mr. Kelly five percentage points it would likely shrink, Democrats said, but not so much as to put Mr. Masters over the top. On Wednesday, Mr. Kelly won a string of mail-in ballots in Maricopa County, the state’s largest and home to Phoenix, by 15 points. Approximately 600,000 votes remain to be counted.
The race in Nevada, which has been among the states hardest hit by the pandemic and inflation, is much closer. Polls have suggested that for months Senator Catherine Cortez Masto struggled and that she will have to rely heavily on the turnout operation built by her predecessor, Senator Harry Reid. This year was the first midterm election in which Nevada mailed a ballot to every voter, adding a new wrinkle to the uncertainty.
Hillary Schieve, the mayor of Reno, who is officially nonpartisan but is an ally of Ms. Cortez Masto, said at this point, “I would be surprised if she doesn’t succeed,” adding, “I think she’s going to prevail.”
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Much remains uncertain. For the second election day in a row, election night ended without a clear winner. Nate Cohn, The Times’ chief political analyst, looks at the state of races for the House and Senate, and if we could know the outcome:
As of Thursday afternoon, Ms. Cortez Masto trailed Adam Laxalt, a Republican former attorney general, by less than 16,000 votes. But Democrats and independent analysts expected the remaining ballots yet to be counted to favor Ms. Cortez Masto.
The question was how much.
As of Thursday afternoon, election officials had counted 884,581 votes in Nevada. It is estimated that 100,000 ballots, inserted by mail and in the boxes, have yet to be counted. The counting process could stretch into next week, Nevada election officials said.
Mr. Laxalt is winning rural districts by wide margins. But those areas are sparsely populated, and at least 95 percent of ballots in most rural counties have already been counted.
That’s why Ms. Cortez Masto’s fate hinges largely on ballots still coming in from two of the state’s most populous counties: Clark County, a Democratic stronghold where she won by just over 33,000 votes as of Thursday, and Washoea County, a swing area where she has been making gains on Wednesday night.
The bulk of the remaining ballots are from Clark County, which includes Las Vegas. At a press conference on ThursdayClark County Registrar Joe Gloria said there are still just over 50,000 ballots left to be processed, let alone counted, and he expects “most of the mail” to be counted by Saturday.
Nevada allows postmarked ballots to be counted on Election Day if they are received within four days. Election officials report mail-in ballots in groups, giving a real-time look at how the two sides stand. And the series are trending in the direction of the Democrats.
In a pool of 14,000 ballots released Wednesday night by Clark County, Ms. Cortez Masto took 65 percent, compared to 30 percent for Mr. Laxalt. In a set of 20,000 Washoe County ballots released Wednesday, her lead was narrower: She won 61 percent, compared to 36 percent for Mr. Laxalt. At the same time, Mr. Laxalt is winning mail-in votes from rural districts by a narrower margin than he won in-person votes in those areas.
If Ms. Cortez Masto wins the remaining mail-in votes by just 55 percent, her campaign expects, she is almost certain to surpass Mr. Laxalta in countless rural voices.
However, postal voting is not the whole story. No one can say for sure how the number of boxes will be deleted. And if Nevada’s race comes down to a few hundred votes, how the state tallies other types of uncounted ballots could be decisive either way.
There are provisional ballots that voters must provide if they register on election day or if they voted at the wrong polling place. And then there are spoiled ballots, which require election officials to determine whether a voter intended to choose a particular candidate but filled out the ballot incorrectly. Nevada also allows voters to “cure” ballots until 5 p.m. Monday, meaning they can fix their mistakes to ensure their votes are counted.
White House officials declined to comment on the record Thursday, although President Biden’s phone records reflected different assessments from his team about the two chambers of Congress. On Wednesday, he called Representative Kevin McCarthy, who most Democrats believe will be the next House Majority Leader, but not Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Not only are Democrats obsessively checking the results in Arizona and Nevada, but they are watching for signs that Republicans are planning to contest the results.
In both Arizona and Nevada, some of the leading Republican candidates in uninvited races have loudly echoed former President Donald J. Trump’s false claims of a stolen 2020 contest and cast broader doubt on the integrity of the election system.
When Mr. Laxalt was Trump’s 2020 campaign co-chairman in Nevada, and he filed lawsuits seeking to overturn the results, falsely claiming they were “rigged.”
In Arizona, Mark Finchem, the Republican candidate for secretary of state, is already flooding his Twitter feed with similarly baseless claims. With 70 percent of the votes countedMr. Finchem trails Adrian Fontes, a Democrat, by five points.
All eyes in the state are on the governor’s race, which is much tougher than the Senate race. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, had a slight lead Kari Lake, Republican former television host which reinforced the false claims of Mr. Trump for 2020.
Ms Lake then ripped election officials as “imbeciles”. hiccups with voting machines in Maricopa County. Stephen Richer, the county’s top election official, is a Republican who has been critical of Trump’s conspiracy theories.
Ms. Lake also hired Harmeet Dhillon, a Republican lawyer who was a member of Mr. Trump’s 2020 legal team, to prepare for a possible legal and media battle over the results.
In an interview with Fox News in 2020, Ms. Dhillon said that Trump’s lawyers were “waiting for the United States Supreme Court, of which the president has appointed three justices, to step in and do something.”
“And hopefully Amy Coney Barrett will come and pick him up,” she added.
Those hopes proved misplaced, as federal courts across the country rejected nearly every legal challenge the Trump team made.
Nate Cohn contributed to the reporting.
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