An election year weighted by economic turmoil, elimination of federal abortion rights and broad concerns about the future of democracy concluded with a final full day of campaigning on Monday with leaders of both parties urgently appealing to their supporters.
President Joe Biden was holding an evening rally in Maryland, where Democrats have one of their best opportunities to reclaim a Republican-held governor’s seat. That was consistent with 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.
Tuesday’s outcomes will have a powerful impact on the final 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 insurrection, the final days of the campaign focused on fundamental questions about the nation’s political values.
Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, set his final rally of the campaign in Ohio. That state holds special meaning for the former president as he readies another run for the White House because 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 was crucial in helping the author and venture capitalist — and onetime Trump critic — secure the GOP’s nomination for a Senate seat.
Control of the Senate could come down to a handful of crucial races. Besides Ohio, those include Pennsylvania, where Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is 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.”
Fetterman was introduced by Bernie Hall, Pennsylvania’s steelworkers union official, who acknowledged that some steelworkers vote Republican. That’s despite the union’s regular endorsements of Democrats at the top of tickets.
“But they’ll come home for Fetterman because he relates really well to blue-collar workers,” Hall said.
In Georgia Raphael Warnock, who was in a nail-bitter with Republican Herschel Walker, tried Monday to cast himself as pragmatic and moderate — capable of succeeding in Washington even if the GOP has more power. Campaigning in Macon, Warnock promised to “do whatever I need to do and work with whomever I need to work with in order to get good things done.”
And in yet another hotly contested swing state, Arizona, Democratic Senator 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.”
“We’ve got a lot of issues facing Arizona and the country that we need to continue to work on. Drought, wildfires, the border. so many issues that need the highest attention.”
Meanwhile, 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 has spent weeks warning of extremism which he says is increasingly common among many Republicans.
“We’re up against some of the darkest forces we’ve ever seen in our history,” Biden told Democrats at a virtual reception Monday afternoon. “These MAGA Republicans are a different breed of cat.”
That referred to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. Biden also raised concerns about voter intimidation during the midterms, saying, during an interview with the Rev. Al Sharpton, “America should feel safe going to the polls” and even mentioning people outside voting stations with automatic rifles.
“It’s outrageous,” Biden said.
Trump has long falsely claimed he lost the 2020 election only because Democrats cheated and has even 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.
Additional reporting by AP