©Reuters. US President Joe Biden delivers a statement on the US midterm elections during his visit to Phnom Penh, Cambodia on November 13, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
By Nandita Bose
PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – Joe Biden said on Sunday he was “incredibly pleased” with turnout in the US election after Democrats gained control of the Senate, a big win for the president ahead of his next two years in office.
Speaking to reporters in Cambodia ahead of an East Asia summit, Biden said turnout was a reflection of the quality of candidates his party is fielding after Senator Catherine Cortez Masto is expected to win re-election in Nevada, narrowly beating Republican challenger Adam Laxalt.
A Democratic victory in a Georgia runoff next month would then give the party absolute majority control of a 51-49 Senate, while a Georgia defeat would still leave the Democrats responsible for a 50-50 Senate, with the Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris could break a tie. The additional seat would mean that the Democrats could save themselves a vote on important nominations and bills.
“We are now concentrating on Georgia. We feel good where we are. And I know I’m a crooked optimist. I understand that,” Biden told reporters. “I am not surprised by the turnout here either. I’m incredibly happy. And I think it reflects the quality of our candidates.”
House control is undecided. Biden acknowledged that such a victory would be “a stretch” for Democrats, but Republicans have fallen far short of predictions that they would come to power in Washington.
Biden had framed the midterm election as a test of US democracy at a time when hundreds of Republican candidates were embracing former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
Trump has repeatedly used his appeal among far-right conservatives to influence candidates nominated by the Republican Party for congressional, gubernatorial and local elections.
However, he was accused of promoting candidates who failed to appeal to a broad enough constituency, resulting in a lackluster Republican performance.
The results have also signaled exhaustion with the kind of chaos the Republican former president has fomented and raised questions about the viability of his potential White House run in 2024.
Laxalt, who lost in Nevada, was a former attorney general who was supported by Trump.
Biden told reporters the election showed the Republican Party “must decide who it is.”
Some Republicans have expressed dissatisfaction as they face at least two more years in the minority. “The old party is dead. Time to bury them. Build something new,” Senator Josh Hawley tweeted.