US midterm election: Key questions ahead of US election from 'mirage states', Trump candidates, voter suppression and more

Americans have begun casting ballots in the midterm elections after a campaign that exposed the country’s political divides and raised questions about its commitment to a democratic future.

Democrats were braced for disappointing results, anxious that their grip on the US House may be slipping and their hold on the US Senate has loosened, with polls suggesting that they will likely lose the House of Representatives, and could lose control of the Senate.

Republican control of even one chamber of Congress would leave Mr Biden vulnerable and could see a legislative gridlock for the last two years of his presidency, and could also see a sweeping number of changes ahead of the 2024 US presidential election.

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More than 41 million pre-election ballots were cast in 47 states, and officials are expecting high turnout on Election Day, with some concerns that accusations that marred the 2020 Presidential Election could boil over at some polling booths, with many GOP candidates running on false claims that the 2020 election was “stolen” from President Trump.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks during a campaign rally at Michigan State University on November 07, 2022 in East Lansing, Michigan. With election day tomorrow, Gov. Whitmer made her last campaign stop in East Lansing. Whitmer is up against Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon. Getty

Here’s a look at some of the key phrases you are likely to hear over the next few days, what they mean, and the key questions that this election could answer.

Voter suppression

A key phrase that has dominated the political agenda in the US since 2020 has been voter suppression. There have been concerns that some voters will be intimidated at ballot stations across the US. There have been reports of armed ballot box watchers in Arizona accused of conspiring to intimidate voters, with accusations of technical errors invalidating mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania.

Since President Biden became president there have been a slew of new laws enacted by states to restrict the ability to vote with 42 new laws introduced across 21 states since 2021 and accusations of gerrymandering in certain states, with some new laws making it more difficult for voters to cast ballots.

Election denial and Trump Candidates

Hundreds of Republican candidates on the ballot have a record of denying or expressing doubts about the 2020 presidential results – with many sympathetic to former president Donald Trump running campaigns that the 2020 election was rigged.

While Donald Trump is not on the ballot, dozens of Trump-endorsed candidates are. They include several controversial choices who beat alternatives backed by the party’s establishment.

Some candidates, such as Jim Marchant, the state’s chief elections official. He is head of the America First Secretary of State Coalition, a collection of Trump loyalists who falsely say the 2020 election was plagued by voter fraud. He has also promised that if elected, President Trump will be re-elected again in 2024, sparking concerns of future election subversion.

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In Pennsylvania, Trump loyalist Doug Mastriano, the Republican candidate for governor and an election denier, has struggled in the polls against Democrat Josh Shapiro, but if successful, he would have authority to appoint his own chief elections official. Mr Trump’s pick for the Senate, Dr Mehmet Oz, is locked in a close race with Democrat John Fetterman. In Arizona, gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and Senate contender Blake Masters, who both promoted Mr Trump’s lies of a stolen 2020 election, are in position to win.

Other Trump loyalists to watch are Ohio Senate candidate JD Vance, North Carolina Senate contender Ted Budd, Michigan gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon and New York gubernatorial hopeful Lee Zeldin.

Mirage states

Big Democratic are expected early on but they could evaporate as vote counters work through piles of Republican-leaning ballots cast their votes on the day. This has led to the term “blue mirage states” being cast around by news outlets, with states Florida and North Carolina expected to show a “blue mirage” with early Democrat votes on the board. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin don't allow officials to open the envelopes until Election Day, which some analysists expecting a "red mirage" with non postal Republican-leaning Election Day ballots reported earlier.

Roe v Wade

After the Supreme Court eliminated Roe v Wade in June, Republicans, including Mr Trump, worried aloud that the decision might trigger a backlash against GOP candidates who oppose abortion rights. And there have been signs in recent months that voters — suburban women and younger voters, in particular — were energised and ready to vote for Democrats on November 8.

But more than four months after the ruling, the abortion effect may be fading.

Democratic candidates have shifted their message away from abortion in recent weeks, at least somewhat, in favour of the economy, social security and Medicare. And some elected officials, including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent, warned that Democrats have relied too much on abortion rights as a galvanising issue.

The issue is especially critical in the push for suburban women, a group that swung against Mr Trump’s GOP in 2020 and seemed to swing back after he left office when the GOP shifted its focus to pandemic restrictions and the economy.

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Will the Latino voters drift further right?

Democrats sought to improve their outreach to Latinos after underperforming with the group in 2020. But there are reasons to believe that Democrats may do even worse this year among the key voting bloc, long a pillar of the party’s coalition.

Both parties have been especially focused on the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas, made up of heavily Latino communities where the Biden administration’s struggle to address problems along the US-Mexico border is a central issue. The GOP believes it will win as many as three House seats in the former Democratic stronghold.

The GOP is also bullish about its standing in Florida’s Miami-Dade County, home to 1.5 million Latinos of voting age and a Democratic stronghold for the past 20 years. The GOP made significant gains there in the last presidential election.

Should Democrats lose Miami-Dade, it would virtually eliminate their path to victory in statewide contests, including presidential elections.

The Latino vote will be consequential in other states but none more so than in Arizona and Nevada, where Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, the nation’s first Latina senator, is locked in a close race.

Presidential Election 2024: Will Joe Biden stand?

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If Republicans have an especially strong election, winning Democratic congressional seats in places like New Hampshire or Washington state, pressure could build for Mr Biden to opt against re-election in 2024.

A bad night for Democrats could undermine Mr Biden’s rationale for a second term. And Mr Trump would almost certainly seize on sweeping Republican victories as evidence of his political strength ahead of a third prospective White House bid.

Good-government advocates are particularly worried about dozens of election deniers running for state office across several presidential battlegrounds.

Election administration aside, other statewide candidates could use a strong showing on Tuesday to position themselves for the 2024 ticket.

Ms Lake, Arizona’s Republican candidate for governor, is already thought to be a potential Trump running mate. And in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis, who is running for re-election on Tuesday, is also considering a 2024 presidential bid, whether Mr Trump runs or not.

Trump is expected to make an announcement on November 15 however, with many speculating he will announce his bid.

Magic Wall

While there is a lot to take in, one of the aspects that many are fond of is CNN’s magic wall, the famous touchscreen display featuring a vast array of up-to-date voting data on election night. The Magic Wall, used on Election Night in America, provides vast amounts of data and displays voting patterns and information quickly.