Bellwether Races: Key Election Night results to watch

If you’re like me, you’ve read the tea leaves (ie polls) and are ready to see what election night will bring. But with 435 house races, 35 Senate races and 36 gubernatorial races, election night will be a whirlwind of numbers, endless “Breaking News” banners and enough flashes of red and blue to induce psychosis in the best of us – hence the inevitable premature heat takes off your cousin on social media.

you have been warned

(It’s probably best to stay off Twitter Tuesday nights unless you follow me, @WJoshLeefor my national coverage on election night.)

So what election results should an aspiring political pundit like you look to to accurately label the midterm elections as a “red wave” for Republicans or a “blue lock” for Democrats? Here are the leading races most likely to precede results across the rest of the nation:

5pm MT (7pm ET)

Virginia 2nd Congressional District, Toss Up: Incumbent Democratic Rep. Elaine Lauria faces a tough challenge from Republican Senator Jennifer Kiggans. Lauria, who sits on the January 6th Committee, has made “defending democracy” a core part of her campaign. Kiggans enjoys the support of Governor Glenn Youngkin and is running a campaign in his like vein. Their campaign literature includes promises to protect education, fight inflation and support local police departments in the district.

Virginia 7th Congressional District, Toss Up: The re-election of two-year Democratic incumbent Abigail Spanberger faces strong opposition from Republican nominee Yesli Vega. The district is significantly more blue after redistricting, making Vegas’ tough challenge more surprising. Vega connects with Latino voters, about 20% of the borough, and runs on a platform to keep streets safe and food affordable for families. Spanberger champions her bipartisan efforts in Congress and her dovish stance on abortion.

Virginia is known for counting the ballots quickly. The first results in these two districts should show which party has the momentum.

18:00 CET (20:00 ET)

Pennsylvania 17th Congressional District, Toss Up: This open space outside of Pittsburgh will tell the country a lot about what working-class Americans are thinking this year. Democratic candidate Chris Deluzio and Republican Jeremy Shaffer are in an old-fashioned sprint that could end in a photo finish.

Incumbent Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb gave up his seat to run for the US Senate, but lost in the primary to now Democratic nominee John Fetterman. The Keystone State Senate race between Fetterman and Republican nominee Mehmet Oz could decide the balance of power in the Senate. Unfortunately, the state does not start counting the ballots until after the polling stations have closed. So if the race is close, we may not know the Senate race results until Wednesday or even later. While we wait, the 17th congressional district results should give us a better understanding of what’s going on in Pennsylvania.

New Hampshire 1st Congressional District, Toss Up: Rep. Chris Pappas, the Democratic incumbent, comes up against former Trump White House aide Karoline Leavitt, a Republican, in a surprising neck-and-neck race. Pappas won the fundraising battle, but Leavitt fought hard. The 25-year-old Republican drew worldwide media attention to her race. A quick Google search of her name turns up over 10,000 news articles. Your former boss is certainly proud of your media skills. If elected, she will become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

New Hampshire also features a late-breaking Senate race between incumbent Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan and Republican challenger Don Bolduc, who was considered so extreme that Democratic funders backed him in the primary, thinking it would throw Hassan the race. This tactic seemed to work at first. Summer and fall polls showed Hassan was so far ahead that a super-PAC linked to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, pulled his money out of the state. However, Bolduc’s campaign has put the race within striking distance over the past two weeks. Similar to Pennsylvania’s 17th, New Hampshire’s early placement of 1st should tell viewers if the GOP has a chance of winning both. When Republicans win the New Hampshire Senate seat, they dramatically increase their chances of controlling the upper chamber.

Michigan 3rd Congressional District, Lean Democrat: The “candidate quality issue” is seen as a stumbling block for Republicans hoping to regain control of Congress. Many Republican candidates have been labeled as too extreme or accused of being draft evaders for supporting former President Donald Trump’s allegations of voter fraud. John Gibbs is an example of a GOP candidate being put to the test on Tuesday night. If his Democratic challenger Hillary Scholten ousts him from the seat, perhaps other “problematic” Trump-backed candidates will face similar difficulties.

19:00 CET (21:00 ET)

17th Congressional District of New York, Toss Up: In a normal year, Democrats wouldn’t lose sleep in this House district just up the river from New York City, but this is not a normal year. Surprisingly, the 17th seat in New York is competitive, despite being currently held by Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Sean Patrick Maloney. This race isn’t the only one to feature a typically deep blue district in the greater New England area. If Maloney loses, it could signal bigger troubles for Democrats. If GOP challenger Mike Lawler manages an upset or even comes uncomfortably close, it could spell trouble for Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, who is trying to fend off a challenge from Republican gubernatorial nominee Lee Zeldin.

Iowa 3rd Congressional District, Lean Republican: This race is at the heart of the struggle for control of Congress. Democratic incumbent Cindy Axne won the seat in the 2018 midterm election. Now, after the reallocation and in a year that favors Republicans, the prevailing view says GOP challenger Sen. Zach Nunn should win easily — if the polls , indicating a “red wave” are correct. But if the polls fail, hopes for a Democratic Blue Congress will appear in that district first.



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