The American people spoke on Election Day, but it’s not clear yet what they were trying to say.

The day after the 2022 midterm elections, votes were still being counted in key races across the country, leaving control of both houses of Congress hanging in the balance.

Early GOP victories in the Ohio Senate race and in races across Florida, where a hurricane lurked offshore, raised Republican hopes of a “red wave” that would sweep them back into power on Capitol Hill and deliver a stinging rebuke to President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party.

“We chose facts over fear. We chose education over indoctrination. We chose law and order over rioting and disorder. Florida was a refuge of sanity when the world went bad,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis, a possible Republican presidential candidate, after cruising to a second term.

“We will never ever surrender to the woke mob!” he declared. “Florida is where woke goes to die!”

But for Republicans, such electric moments were hard to come by. In Pennsylvania, a key battleground state, Democrat John Fetterman, still ailing after suffering a stroke in May, hung on to edge out Republican Mehmet Oz, giving Democrats something to cheer.

In his acceptance speech, Fetterman recalled his campaign slogan: “every county, every vote.”

“And that’s exactly what happened,” Fetterman declared to an audience early Wednesday morning. “We jammed them up. We held the line … I never expected that we were going to turn these red counties blue, but we did what we needed to do.”

Though final results were not available Tuesday night, Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy confidently predicted his party will take over the House.

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“Now, let me tell you, you’re out late, but when you wake up tomorrow, we will be in the majority and Nancy Pelosi will be in the minority,” McCarthy said.

As of 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, with results still being counted, Republicans had secured 197 House seats, short of the 218 needed for a majority. 

The fight for control of the U.S. Senate — a 50-50 split for the past two years — proved a pitched battle, as advertised. As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, Democrats had 48 seats and Republicans had 47, with the outcomes in battleground Senate races in Georgia, Nevada, Arizona, and Wisconsin still undecided.

Pro-life disappointment

On the abortion issue, a Republican-controlled House spells doom for the Women’s Health Protection Act, at least for the time being. President Biden and Pelosi, a fellow Catholic, placed a premium on passage of the radical pro-abortion legislation, which would overturn all state restrictions on the killing of unborn children.

Yet election night also brought crippling disappointments for the pro-life cause. By wide margins, voters approved pro-abortion ballot measures in California, Vermont, and Michigan. A pro-life ballot initiative did not succeed in Kentucky, and another was behind in Montana as of Wednesday morning. 

In California, where 65% of voters approved an amendment to the state’s constitution to protect abortion, Catherine Hadro, director of media relations for the No on Proposition 1 campaign, said that if voters had understood how extreme the measure was they would not have voted for it.

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“The notion that a baby can be aborted for any reason up until the moment of birth is soundly rejected by voters, especially if the baby is healthy and the mother is in no danger,” Hadro cautioned in a statement early Wednesday. “And yet, this is precisely what Proposition 1 will allow.”

Hadro told CNA: “The battle now shifts to the courts and the legislature. Our coalition will fight all attempts to reinterpret rights or conform state law to what is now known as the nation’s most extreme abortion amendment.”

This year’s midterm elections took on heightened significance in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in a Mississippi abortion case in June that upended nearly a half-century of legalized abortion nationwide and freed states to regulate abortion.

While polling before the election found that voters were more concerned about inflation than abortion, a National Election Pool exit poll, conducted by Edison Research for CNN, found that 31% of voters said inflation was the most important issue to them, and 27% said that abortion was their top concern.

Katie Yoder contributed to this story.