COATESVILLE, Pa. (AP) — Coast to coast, candidates and big-name backers made final appeals to voters Monday in the last hours of a fraught midterm election season, with Republicans excited about the prospect of winning back Congress and President Joe Biden insisting his party would “surprise the living devil out of a lot of people.”
Democrats contend Republican victories could profoundly and adversely reshape the country, eliminating abortion rights nationwide and unleashing broad threats to the very future of American democracy. Republicans say the public is tired of Biden policies amid high inflation and concerns about crime.
“We know in our bones that our democracy is at risk,” Biden said during an evening rally in Maryland, where Democrats have one of their best opportunities to reclaim a Republican-held governor’s seat. “I want you know, we’ll meet this moment.”
Arriving back at the White House a short time later, Biden was franker, saying: “I think we’ll win the Senate. I think the House is tougher.” Asked what the reality of governing will be like, he responded, ”More difficult.”
The Maryland event followed 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. Biden won Maryland with more than 65% of the vote in 2020 and appeared with Wes Moore, the 44-year-old Rhodes Scholar who could become the state’s first Black governor.
The president said at an earlier virtual event, “Imagine what we can do in a second term if we maintain control.”
Most political prognosticators don’t think the Democrats will — and predict that Tuesday’s results will have a major impact on the next 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, 2021, Capitol insurrection, the Democrats have tried to focus key races on fundamental questions about the nation’s political values.
The man at the center of most Jan. 6 debate, former President Donald Trump, was in Ohio for his final rally of the 2022 campaign — and already thinking about his own future in 2024. He had teased that he might formally launch a third presidential run at Monday night’s rally with Senate candidate JD Vance — which Trump concluded by promising a “big announcement” next week at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Trump’s backing of Vance in Ohio this year was crucial in helping the author and venture capitalist — and onetime Trump critic — secure the GOP’s nomination for a Senate seat. He’s now facing Democrat Tim Ryan.
“When I think about tomorrow, it is to ensure the American dream survives into the next generation,” Vance declared to thousands of cheering supporters, some sporting Trump 2024 hats and T-shirts, at Dayton International Airport.
While the GOP likes its chances of flipping the House, control of the Senate could come down to a handful of crucial races. Those include Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania, where Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman was 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.”
At a nighttime rally at a suburban Philadelphia estate, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley introduced Oz to a crowd of about 1,500.
“There’s too many extreme positions in Washington, too much out there pulling us away from where the real answers lie,” Oz said. “I will bring balance to Washington. But John Fetterman? He’ll bring more extreme.”
Fetterman’s campaign noted that, in the final days, Oz has campaigned with Trump, at a wedding venue that refuses same-sex marriages and at a fitness center whose owner organized buses for Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021, rally in Washington.
In Georgia, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who was in a nail-bitter with Republican Herschel Walker, tried to cast himself as pragmatic — capable of succeeding in Washington even if the GOP has more power. Warnock promised Monday to “do whatever I need to do and work with whomever I need to work with in order to get good things done.”
Arizona Democratic Sen. 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.”
Kelly’s Republican rival, Blake Masters, called the senator “just a rubber stamp vote for Joe Biden’s failed agenda.”
President Joe Biden and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul stand on stage during a campaign event at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, N.Y., Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)