2024 shadow looms over Republicans’ midterm optimism

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The 2022 election is barreling to a close on Tuesday. But before the polls even close, the results already cast a shadow over the 2024 presidential election.

Both the House and the Senate are up for grabs in Tuesday’s midterm elections — Republicans are heavily favored to regain control of the House, where they only need to flip a handful of seats to retake the chamber they lost in 2018. The narrowly divided Senate’s fate will likely be determined by key races in a handful of states including Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire and North Carolina.

The to-be-decided races for control of both chambers have already begun to shape the fight for the White House in 2024, both for President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, who has all but announced his intention to seek another term in office.

The former president sought to rip the spotlight back to himself in the hours before the midterm, setting D.C. and the larger political world ablaze with rumors that he may announce his 2024 bid on the eve of the midterm. Ultimately, Trump opted to tease an “announcement” he said he will make on Nov. 15, a week after the midterm.

On Tuesday morning, Trump cast his ballot in Palm Beach, Fla. He confirmed to reporters while exiting his polling place that he voted for Gov. Ron DeSantis in Florida's gubernatorial contest. The incumbent governor is expected to be Trump's top rival in the race for the Republican nomination for president in 2024, should they both run.

Asked by a reporter at his polling place in Palm Beach if he was still a kingmaker in Republican politics, Trump shrugged and said, “I hope so.” He went on to promote his announcement next week, saying it will be “an exciting day for a lot of people.”

He continued to tease the announcement even further in the early afternoon of Election Day, revealing that he would make a "statement on running" at the event at Mar-a-Lago next Tuesday.

"I think it's gonna be a great event," Trump said on the Clay Travis and Buck Sexton radio show. "I was thinking of doing it last night."

The White House said that Biden — who previously voted early in Delaware — taped an interview with radio host D.L. Hughley that is set to air later this afternoon. When asked by reporters on Monday evening how he was feeling about the election, Biden said “I'm optimistic. But I'm always optimistic.” He added that he thinks Democrats could hold both chambers of Congress while acknowledging the headwinds his party faces.

“I think we’ll win the Senate, and I think the House is tougher,” he said Monday evening.

For their part, Republican officials and GOP candidates oozed with confidence on the morning of Election Day as the party pushes to end two years of Democratic control in Washington.

“On every single issue, the Democrats have failed, and the American people, right now, are about to deliver them their report card,” Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel told conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt on his Tuesday morning broadcast.

McDaniel spent the morning campaigning at a diner in Warminster, Pa., with Senate candidate Mehmet Oz, who in the past few weeks has narrowed Democrat John Fetterman’s lead in the race for the Pennsylvania seat. Oz, speaking to Fox News from the diner, boasted of his chances of taking down Fetterman, who is polling slightly ahead of the former TV personality.

“When all the votes are counted, I'm going to be the winner,” Oz said. “And the reason for that is because I have been pushing hard every day about the kitchen table issues, the issues that are plaguing Pennsylvanians.”

Both Fetterman and Oz voted in the state on Tuesday. Neither took questions from reporters, with Oz giving brief remarks encouraging everyone to vote.

Many states also have close gubernatorial contests on the ballot on Tuesday, including Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

While Republicans made their rounds on Fox News and conservative radio at the outset of Election Day, most Democrats have been more subdued. The White House called a “lid” a bit before 11:30 — indicating the White House was not expecting any more public appearances for the president for the remainder of the day. Vice President Kamala Harris’ official schedule also said she was set to do “political radio interviews” throughout the day.

Republicans on Tuesday morning alluded to the midterms becoming a referendum on Democrats and Biden’s presidency. They pointed to issues they said are high on voters’ minds — such as soaring inflation — as a sign of a red wave sweeping the country and giving Republicans back the majority.

Arizona GOP Senate candidate Blake Masters said he expects a “big” and “glorious” wave of Republican wins on Tuesday. Masters is running against incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in a toss-up race for the Arizona Senate seat.

“The Democrats in Arizona, they have an advantage in the early vote: More Democrats showed up to vote early than Republicans,” Masters told Hewitt on Tuesday morning. “This didn’t surprise us, right, we're expecting a giant wave tomorrow.”

Another closely watched state on Tuesday is Georgia, where there is a competitive Senate and gubernatorial contest. The Senate race, in particular, has been deadlocked, with both parties scrambling to try to hit the 50 percent mark on Tuesday in order to avoid what would likely be an expensive runoff in early December.

Both candidates projected confidence on Tuesday morning.

“I do feel that we can avoid a runoff,” Walker told Hewitt on Tuesday. “I think the people in Georgia, they are speaking and speaking clear, that they want a change.” And the incumbent Warnock told canvassers Tuesday morning that he too believed that he thought he could win outright tonight. “Don’t let the pundits get in your head,” he said, according to the New Republic.

Elsewhere, there are some signs Tuesday could turn into the referendum on Democratic control that Republicans are hoping for: Even in historically blue states such as New York and Oregon, the left is struggling to maintain their leads in key races. The New York contest for governor between Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul and Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin has narrowed significantly in recent months, and in deep-blue Oregon, Republican Christine Drazan is running neck-and-neck with Democrat Tina Kotek in the gubernatorial race.

Democrats remain favored in both of those states, but Republicans projected confidence Tuesday morning that they’d be able to pull off a pair of upsets.

McDaniel, the RNC chair, said the GOP’s likeliest pick-up of gubernatorial races was Drazan winning in Oregon.“She’s run a really great race. This will be the first time a Republican’s won in Oregon for 40 years,” McDaniel said.

Election and national security officials have also been on high alert for threats to the voting system this year, both foreign and domestic. The Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has not seen any cyberattacks on election systems so far, a senior CISA official told reporters on Tuesday morning.

“We continue to see no specific or credible threat to disrupt election infrastructure today,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity per CISA policy.

But the intelligence community has seen foreign powers mounting influence operations to try to sway voters, according to the official.

“The playbook from 2016 is out there and available for multiple actors, and now we have observed participants who did not really engage in 2020 willing to engage in election influence in 2022,” the senior CISA official said.

Election officials remain concerned about the spread of misinformation around the vote tabulation process. Officials warned that, in many key states, conclusive results may not be available on the night of the election, especially if the contests are very close.

One key state to watch is Pennslyvania. There, election officials were unable to start the process of tabulating mail ballots until polls opened Tuesday morning, and large jurisdictions will likely have to count through at least Wednesday to tabulate them all.

A last-minute change in Philadelphia could extend the timeline there. On Tuesday morning, election officials voted to reinstate a process that could catch potential double votes, responding to a Republican lawsuit about the process.

“I want to be very clear that when there are conversations that occur later this evening about whether or not Philadelphia has counted all of their ballots that the reason that some ballots would not be counted is that Republicans targeted Philadelphia — and only Philadelphia — to force us to conduct a procedure that no other county does,” said Seth Bluestein, a Republican commissioner in the city, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Eric Geller contributed to this report.