Coast to coast, candidates and big-name backers made final appeals to voters Monday in the last hours of a fraught midterm election season, with Republicans excited about the prospect of winning back Congress even as President Joe Biden predicted his party would “surprise the living devil out of a lot of people.”
Democrats contend Republican victories could profoundly and adversely reshape the country, eliminating abortion rights nationwide and unleashing broad threats to the very future of American democracy. Republicans say the public is tired of Biden policies amid high inflation and concerns about crime.
“We know in our bones that our democracy is at risk,” Biden said during an evening rally in Maryland, where Democrats have one of their best opportunities to reclaim a Republican-held governor’s seat. “I want you know, we’ll meet this moment."
That event followed Biden’s late-campaign strategy of sticking largely to his party’s strongholds rather than stumping in more competitive territory, where control of Congress may ultimately be decided. Biden won Maryland with more than 65% of the vote in 2020 and appeared with Wes Moore, the 44-year-old Rhodes Scholar who could become the state’s first Black governor.
Keeping his message positive, the president said at an earlier virtual event, “Imagine what we can do in a second term if we maintain control.”
Most political prognosticators don't think the Democrats will — and predict that Tuesday's results will have a major impact on the next two years of Biden’s presidency, shaping policy on everything from government spending to military support for Ukraine.
In the first national election since the violent Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection, the Democrats have tried to focus key races on fundamental questions about the nation’s political values.
The man at the center of most Jan. 6 debate, former President Donald Trump, was in Ohio for his final rally of the 2022 campaign — and already thinking about his own future in 2024. Ohio holds special meaning for him as he readies another run for the White House. It was one of the first places where he was able to prove his enduring power among Republican voters two years ago.
Trump's backing of JD Vance in Ohio this year was crucial in helping the author and venture capitalist — and onetime Trump critic — secure the GOP's nomination for a Senate seat.
While the GOP likes its chances of flipping the House, control of the Senate could come down to a handful of crucial races. Those include Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania, where Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman was locked in a close race against Republican celebrity surgeon Mehmet Oz.
“This is one of the most important races in America,” Fetterman told a crowd of about 100 Monday outside a union hall near a steel plate mill in Coatesville, about 40 miles west of Philadelphia. “Dr. Oz has spent over $27 million of his own money. But this seat isn’t for sale.”
In Georgia, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who was in a nail-bitter with Republican Herschel Walker, tried to cast himself as pragmatic — capable of succeeding in Washington even if the GOP has more power. Warnock promised Monday to "do whatever I need to do and work with whomever I need to work with in order to get good things done.”
Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly also tried to strike a moderate tone. He praised the state’s late Republican senator, John McCain, while noting that he didn’t ask Biden to campaign with him but would “welcome the president to come here at any point.”
Kelly’s Republican rival, Blake Masters, called the senator “just a rubber stamp vote for Joe Biden’s failed agenda.”
“You look at what Biden and Mark Kelly are doing. It’s like, are they that incompetent, or are they trying to destroy the country?” Masters said. "I think it’s both.”
Elon Musk, whose purchase of Twitter has roiled the social media world, used that platform Monday to endorse the GOP, writing, "I recommend voting for a Republican Congress, given that the Presidency is Democratic.”
That came too late for more than 41 million Americans who had already cast early ballots. Biden, meanwhile, wasn't exclusively positive on the final day of campaigning. He's spent weeks warning of extremism and also said Monday, “We’re up against some of the darkest forces we’ve ever seen in our history.”
“These MAGA Republicans are a different breed of cat," he said, referring to Trump's “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. Biden also raised concerns about voter intimidation during the midterms, even suggesting that some people were outside voting stations with automatic rifles.
The president was expected to watch Tuesday night’s returns from the White House.
Trump has long falsely claimed he lost the 2020 election only because Democrats cheated, and he has begun raising the possibility of election fraud this year. Many Republican candidates across the country continue to adhere to his election denialism, even as federal intelligence agencies are warning of the possibility of political violence from far-right extremists.
Threats could also come from abroad, as they have in past races. Kremlin-connected Russian entrepreneur Yevgeny Prigozhin admitted Monday that he had interfered in U.S. elections and would continue to do so.
None of that has deterred Trump from considering announcing a third presidential run at virtually any time — perhaps even Monday evening. But he had not made a final decision, according to people familiar with his thinking. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly by name.
Many others noted that Trump often focuses on drawing media attention and they saw the latest tease as aimed at generating excitement for his last rally. He won Ohio by 8 points in both 2016 and 2020.
Trump has long been eager to announce his intentions and increasingly explicit as he’s teased his plans. “I will probably have to do it again but stay tuned,” he said Sunday night.
Republican officials and some people in Trump’s orbit have urged him to wait until after the midterms to avoid turning the election into a referendum on him while shielding him from blame should Republicans — especially candidates he endorsed — not do as well as expected. But even people who had pushed for waiting now say those concerns are moot given that Election Day is here.
The GOP said voters would rebuke Democrats amid surging inflation and pessimism about the direction of the country. History suggests any party in power will suffer significant losses in the midterms.
First lady Jill Biden appeared with her husband in Maryland but also campaigned earlier Monday for Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton in northern Virginia. It could be an early indicator of GOP midterm strength if Wexton's seat flips to her Republican challenger, Hung Cao.
The first lady told about 100 people outside a home in Ashburn, about 30 miles from Washington, that the race could come down to a tiny margin of votes. And she warned that, in Congress, a “Republican majority will attack women’s rights and health care.”