13 min read

Election Night viewer’s guide

The top races to watch across the country and when results will start coming in. Plus, how to spend Election Night like a pro.
Election Night viewer’s guide
Photo by Element5 Digital / Unsplash

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, November 8, 2022. The midterm elections are 0 days away. The 2024 elections are 728 days away.

That’s right: Election Day is finally here. After months of ads, debates, and historic twists, it’s time for Americans to head to the polls and have their say in the 2022 midterms. I hope you’ll go to vote.org if you need info on your polling place or the requirements to vote in your state. 🇺🇸

On a personal note, I’m celebrating more than just democracy today: It’s also my 21st birthday. I’m looking forward to finally being able to legally drink as I take in the election results! 🍻

If you’ve appreciated WUTP’s coverage of the midterms... or want to wish me a “happy birthday”... or want to buy me a drink tonight 😉 ... you can click here to make a one-time donation or set up a recurring donation to support my work.

After another year around the sun, and another election cycle — almost! — in the books, I can’t tell you how grateful I am for your support of WUTP, whether it’s donating, or sharing the newsletter, or reading it and responding with all your thoughtful and interesting notes.

I truly look forward each morning to writing this newsletter and even more to opening up my inbox afterward to see what you all have written in. Thanks for letting me live out my dream each day. I promise you: much more to come!

Make sure to check back here tomorrow morning for all the results we know by then. But first: here’s what to watch tonight...

An hour-by-hour guide for Election Night 2022

American voters will cast their ballots today in 435 House races, 39 gubernatorial races, 35 Senate races, and thousands of other state and local races.

The future of key issues, from abortion rights and aid to Ukraine to public safety and the state of the economy — possibly even the future of democracy itself — hangs in the balance. As I wrote last week, these midterms mark the difference between President Biden being able to enact the rest of his legislative agenda — or facing the threat of congressional impeachment.

With control of Congress already on a knife’s edge — Republicans need only to net one Senate seat and five House seats to retake control of Congress — there are many close contests that could prove decisive.

But with all its oversized maps, vote tallies, and “key race alerts,” I know Election Night can sometimes be a confusing affair. So here’s a viewer’s guide to keep by your side as results roll in, so you’ll know which races to pay attention to and when the key points in the night will be.

I also surveyed some of the smartest election experts I know, and will have viewing tips from them sprinkled throughout — so you can watch the results tonight like a pro.

Note: All times Eastern. States are listed when their final polling places close. This list of key races is meant to be comprehensive, but not exhaustive.

7:00 p.m. EST

In Georgia, the night kicks off with key Senate and gubernatorial contests. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) faces onetime college football star Herschel Walker (R) in a race that will be pivotal to control of the Senate. Despite a series of personal scandals, polls have shown Walker gaining on Warnock, a pastor in MLK’s former pulpit, in recent days.

But be prepared not to know the results tonight: like in 2020, the race — and maybe even the Senate majority — will be decided by a December runoff if neither candidate notches 50% support.

Gov. Brian Kemp (R) — one of the few GOP figures to break with former President Donald Trump but survive a primary challenge — is locked in a rematch with voting rights activist Stacey Abrams (D). A resurgence of split-ticket voters has kept Kemp firmly in the lead even as the Senate race remains neck-and-neck.

In Virginia, the fate of Elaine Luria (D), Abigail Spanberger (D), and Reps. Jennifer Wexton (D)  — in descending order of competitiveness — will provide an early test for Republicans of whether they are on track to retake the House... and how big of a majority they might be able to notch.  

In Indiana, another early House race to watch: the hotly contested race between Rep. Frank Mrvan (D) and Jennifer-Ruth Green (R), an Air Force veteran who would be only the second Black Republican woman ever to serve in Congress.

Plus, both parties are eyeing the secretary of state race, where a Republican election denier could provide Democrats with their first statewide win in Indiana in a decade.

In Vermont, Becca Balint (D) — seeking the sole House seat — is poised to become the state’s first female member of Congress, which will mean all 50 states will have sent a woman to Capitol Hill.

University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato writes: “The large suburb of Virginia Beach anchors the Second congressional district. VB tilts a bit right, but it's also representative of many swing suburbs throughout the nation. The district as a whole is redistricted, and more Republican, so incumbent Elaine Luria is not favored to win against State Sen. Jen Kiggans. But how strongly R does VB go? That’s a measure of what could happen across the country as Rs make a strong bid to retake the House.”
Peach State Politics author Niles Francis gives a view from Georgia: “I think the Senate race will come down to the metro ATL suburbs. You have a lot of suburban moderates and republican-leaning independents who voted for Joe Biden in 2020 but are backing Brian Kemp for governor this year. Are these voters willing to split their tickets for Warnock because they don’t like Walker, or do they hold their noses and vote for Walker because of the economy/Biden’s unpopularity?”

7:30 p.m. EST

In Ohio, author J.D. Vance (R) — of “Hillbilly Elegy” fame — and Rep. Tim Ryan (D) are both playing up their populist credentials in the race to replace retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman.

In North Carolina, another open Senate race has Rep. Ted Budd (R) and former state Supreme Court chief justice Cheri Beasley (D) squaring off.

The Republicans are favored in the two Senate races, but polls have remained closer than expected for months in both: if Democrats have strong showings in either, it would be an early sign that a “red wave” might not materialize, at least in the Senate.

The 19th’s Grace Panetta writes: “I’ll be watching state supreme court races key to abortion access around the country,” especially to “see if Republicans can secure solid majorities on the Ohio and North Carolina Supreme Courts.”

8:00 p.m. EST

In Pennsylvania, another marquee Senate race unfolds. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) has watched a six-point polling lead evaporate in the space of a month, with celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz (R) pulling even (or ahead) in recent surveys. Fetterman has been losing ground in the critical open race ever since a halting debate performance revealed the extent to which he was still recovering from a stroke suffered in May.

Democrats are eyeing the race as their most promising Senate pickup opportunity. If Oz wins, he would be the first Muslim senator in U.S. history

In the state’s closely watched gubernatorial election, a Conservative Jew — state attorney general Josh Shapiro (D) — is running against state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R), who has faced allegations of antisemitism.

In Florida, both Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R) are expected to win re-election in a once-competitive state that has moved solidly to the right in recent years. The margin in DeSantis’ race against former Rep. Charlie Crist (D) will be especially notable to watch, as his 2024 rivalry with Trump heats up — even earning him a nickname (“DeSanctimonius”) from the former president.

In New Hampshire, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) was seen as safe against retired Army brigadier general Don Bolduc — one of the many election deniers on the ballot — but polls have lately tightened in the race and Democrats sent in their top surrogates on a rescue mission. If Hassan begins to falter, Republicans could be looking at something approximating a 54-seat majority.

In Rhode Island, former Cranston mayor Allan Fung (R) has the GOP giddy about the prospect of flipping the 2nd District House seat in a deep-blue state. If Fung triumphs over state treasurer Seth Magaziner (D), blue-state Democrats across the map will be worried.

In Maryland, “The Other Wes Moore” author Wes Moore (D), seeking to flip the governorship and become the state’s first Black governor, is seen as a Democratic rising star. He faces state delegate Dan Cox (R), another Trump-backed election denier.

In Oklahoma, the unpopular Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) is locked in an unusually tight race with state education superintendent Joy Hofmeister (D), a former Republican who recently switched parties and has been boosted by an endorsement from the state’s Native American tribes.

In Maine, Gov. Janet Mills (D) faces a challenge from former Gov. Paul LePage (R) — while Rep. Jared Golden (D), who has broken with his party on key votes, tries to hold on to his seat. Plus, a minimum wage referendum in Portland has caught nationwide attention.

National Journal’s Kirk Bado writes: “Republicans running statewide in Florida seemed to have put their respective races away, but there’s still plenty to learn from the Sunshine State. I’ll be paying attention to the margins in Miami-Dade County to see if GOP inroads with Hispanic voters last cycle was a fluke or start of a larger trend. If Republicans build on their margins from 2020 in those communities in Florida...then Democrats have a five-alarm fire on their hands.”

9:00 p.m. EST

In Arizona, former news anchor Kari Lake (R) has electrified Republicans and sparked talk of a possible spot on a Trump 2024 ticket. But first, she must defeat secretary of state Katie Hobbs (D), who has refused to debate the election-denying firebrand.

The state also has a key Senate race, as vulnerable astronaut-turned-Sen. Mark Kelly (D) faces a challenge from Blake Masters (R), a protégé (like Ohio’s Vance) of billionaire Peter Thiel.

Further down the ballot, Lake is joined by a duo of other Republicans steeped in far-right politics who could remake the Arizona voting system if elected secretary of state and attorney general.

In Wisconsin, Sen. Ron Johnson (R) is seen as the most vulnerable Senate Republican in his race against Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D). Although he hails from a battleground state, Johnson is no stranger to controversy, from his close embrace of Trump to his recent weaponizing of race while campaigning against Barnes, who is Black.

In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) was supposed to be coasting in her bid to become her state’s first elected female governor, after ascending to the post due to Andrew Cuomo’s resignation last year. But Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin’s focus on crime has made her suddenly vulnerable in the deep-blue state.

Several House seats are up for grabs as well. Perhaps no prize would be as symbolic for Republicans as the 17th District, where Sean Patrick Maloney (D), who heads the House Democratic campaign arm, is himself at risk.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is favored against former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D), who appears headed for his third electoral loss in four years. Republicans are hoping to flip three South Texas House seats, fueled by their recent strength among Hispanic voters.

In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) is seeking re-election against businesswoman Tudor Dixon (R). The battleground state also has a key ballot measure on abortion, as a 1931 law banning the procedure remains tied up in the courts. And Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D) faces state Sen. Tom Barrett (R) in a key House race.

In Colorado, another Senate race that could become competitive in a “red wave” scenario. Sen. Michael Bennet (D) is facing businessman Joe O’Dea (R), a moderate, pro-choice Republican who has invoked Trump’s wrath.

In Iowa, a survey last month by legendary pollster Ann Selzer spooked Republicans when it showed Sen. Chuck Grassley (R), who is seeking an eighth term at age 89, in a close race with retired Navy vice admiral Mike Franken (D). But Selzer’s more recent poll showed Grassley with a much more comfortable lead.

A closer race will play out for Rep. Cindy Axne (D), another vulnerable House Democrat.

In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly (D) and Rep. Sharice Davids (D) are both trying to hold on to seats they captured in the 2018 “blue wave.” In a state that surprised with its August vote to keep abortion legal, Davids has centered abortion rights in her race. Kelly has largely sidestepped the issue.

In South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem (R) has been ensnared in ethics issues that could make her race a close one — and hurt her prospects of seeking the GOP presidential nod in 2024.

The state is also voting on a referendum to expand Medicaid, which Noem opposes. It could be the latest in a series of GOP-led states where voters have opted to expand Medicaid over their leaders’ objections.

Inside Elections’ Jacob Rubashkin writes: “If the election is as close as it could be, Democrats’ undoing might be the 18 or so incumbents who chose to run for another office, run in a different district, or retire altogether. The Democrats who stuck around in tough districts — like Elissa Slotkin, Dan Kildee, Jared Golden, or even Tom O’Halleran — are actually hanging around against their GOP opponents. But the party is struggling to hold onto similarly situated open seats, like Texas’ 15th, Michigan’s 10th, Illinois’ 17th, even Rhode Island’s 2nd District. If Democrats lose those seats and come up a dozen seats short of a majority, the members who took a pass might not be so popular in DC.”

10:00 p.m. EST

In Nevada, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) is one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats in the country, staring down a challenge from former state attorney general and political scion Adam Laxalt (R). Will Latino voters oust the nation’s first Latina senator?

In Utah, presidential candidate Evan McMullin (I) has been endorsed by Democrats in a long-shot bid to rally anti-Trump support against Sen. Mike Lee (R) in a state where the former president is unpopular among Mormon voters.

11 p.m. EST

In California, no shortage of competitive House races in the country’s most populous state, as Reps. Mike Garcia (R), Mike Levin (D), Katie Porter (D), and David Valadao (R) all face serious challengers.

There’s also the Los Angeles mayor’s race, with billionaire Rick Caruso (D) dropping $100 million of his own money to defeat Rep. Karen Bass (D) in her quest to become the city’s first female leader.

In Oregon, the unpopularity of outgoing Democratic Gov. Kate Brown and a former Democrat’s Independent run has put former state Rep. Christine Drazan (R) in position to potentially become the state’s first GOP governor elected since 1982. Or former state Rep. Tina Kotek (D) could become one of the country’s first two openly lesbian governors.

Meanwhile, Democrats in the 5th District ousted moderate Rep. Kurt Schrader and elevated Jamie McLeod-Skinner (D) in the primary. But it’s only made the race even more competitive for small business owner Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R).

In Washington, Sen. Patty Murray (D) has been in office since the 1990s. Could nurse Tiffany Smiley (R) topple her in the blue state?

1 a.m. EST

In Alaska, ranked-choice voting has changed the game in a once solidly red state. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) faces a Trump-endorsed challenge from former state official Kelly Tshibaka (R), while Rep. Mary Peltola (D) — who won a historic special election in August — faces former Gov. Sarah Palin (R) and Nick Begich III (R).

But remember...

These are just when the polls close. In 2020, it took two weeks for the final results to be called in every state — so don’t expect a winner in every race to be called tonight.

States like Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Michigan don’t start counting mail-in ballots until Election Day; seeing as swaths of the country are fairly polarized by voting method, don’t be surprised if the numbers shift as the night goes on. (On the other hand, Arizona does start processing mail-in ballots before the election, so the opposite shift could occur).

Such shifts are perfectly normal, as are delays in declaring a winner — especially since many races are expected to be close. But here are two final expert tips to see how the night is going...

Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman says: “Don’t get too carried away by the first numbers you see... We’re going to have “blue mirages” and “red mirages” to one extent. The one place where I would expect no mirage would be New Hampshire, because towns typically report their results all at once and there’s typically almost no absentee vote.”
University of Virginia’s J. Miles Coleman offers a shorthand for the VA results, which will come early in the night: “Rs flip Luria’s seat in VA-2 = bare minimum types of seat they’d need. Rs flip Spanberer’s seat in VA-7 = likely an R gain of 25+ seats. Rs flip Wexton’s seat in VA-10 = biggest R majority since WW2.”

So there are two places to keep an eye on — New Hampshire and Virginia — if you want a more accurate barometer early on for where the night is headed.

🚨 What else you should know

➞ Trump: At his final 2022 campaign rally, the former president teased that he’ll make a “very big announcement” in Florida on November 15 — presumably that he’s seeking the White House for a third time in 2024.

➞ Pelosi: About a week after her husband was attacked with a hammer at their San Francisco home, the House speaker broke her silence on the assault in a CNN interview. “I never thought it would be Paul,” she said.

➞ Biden: The president, who says he’s “optimistic” about today’s elections here in the U.S., spoke to former (and likely future) Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to congratulate him on his election victories.

➞ SCOTUS: Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson handed down her first opinion on Monday. It was a dissent in support of Davel Chinn, a death row inmate from Ohio.

🗓 What your leaders are doing today

All times Eastern. Click on an event’s time to watch or listen to it.

Executive Branch

President Biden has nothing on his public schedule other than receiving his daily intelligence briefing (9:30 am). He already voted early in Delaware last month.

Vice President Harris is in California. She’ll participate in radio interviews throughout the day.

Second Gentleman Emhoff will participate in a virtual event on abortion hosted by NARAL Pro-Choice America (6 pm).

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre does not have a press briefing scheduled, which is unusual for a day on which Biden is in Washington.

Legislative Branch

The House and Senate are not in session. Neither chamber is scheduled to hold any votes until November 14.

Judicial Branch

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Mallory v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co. (10 am) and Health and Hospital Corp., v. Talevski (11 am).

Per SCOTUSBlog, the question in Mallory is “whether a Pennsylvania court can hear a lawsuit brought against a Virginia-based railroad company by a Virginia man who worked for the railroad in Virginia and Ohio.” (Got it?) The decision could open companies up to lawsuits in any state they do business in, rather than just the state they are headquartered in.

Meanwhile, in Health and Hospital Corp., the justices will consider whether individual Medicaid beneficiaries — not just the federal government — can sue state officials in federal court if they believe the states are violating their rights under the program. The case could carry implications for lawsuits involving other federal programs that are partly administered by the states.

👋 Before I go...

This morning, the Moon turned blood-red during the last total lunar eclipse until 2025.

Here are some awesome photos from here in DC:

Does a “Red Moon” over the Capitol mean a “Red Wave” is headed there tonight? Only time will tell...

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If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.

Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.

— Gabe