Dems, GOP make urgent final pitches as election season wraps
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 Monday by leaders of both parties urgently appealing to their supporters.
President Joe Biden was holding a Monday 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, was holding 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 states. 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, who himself lives across the street from a steel mill, was introduced by Bernie Hall, the top steelworkers union official in Pennsylvania,. Hall acknowledged that some steelworkers vote Republican, 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.
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 ballots. In fact, Monday was more about ensuring that supporters either meet early voting deadlines or make firm plans to show up at polling places in person.
Biden, in an interview with the Rev. Al Sharpton airing Monday on Sharpton's radio show, warned that his administration's progress on key issues, including bolstering funding for historically Black colleges and universities and trying to forgive student loan debt for millions of Americans, would be at risk if Republicans take Congress.
"If we don't win, they're going to wipe out everything we've done," the president said. He also raised concerns about voter intimidation, saying, "America should feel safe going to the polls" and 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.
Campaigning in New York for Gov. Kathy Hochul on Sunday, Biden said Republicans were willing to condone last year's mob attack at the Capitol and that, after the recent assault of Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, some in that party made "light of it" or were "making excuses."
"There's never been a time in my career where we've glorified violence based on a political preference," the president said.
Meanwhile, at a Sunday Trump rally in Miami, a reference to Pelosi prompted chants of "Lock her up!" — a stark reminder of the nation's deep divide.
Trump was campaigning for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's reelection, but also focused on his own political future. After telling a crowd in Iowa last week that he's "very, very, very probably" going to run for president again, he again teased the possibility on Sunday and encouraged supporters to watch his Ohio rally.
"I will probably have to do it again, but stay tuned," Trump said, teasing the Monday event. "We have a big, big rally. Stay tuned for tomorrow night."
Not attending the Miami event was Florida's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, who is running for reelection against Democrat Charlie Crist and is widely considered Trump's most formidable challenger if he also were to get into the White House race.
DeSantis held his own, separate Sunday events. But his counter political programing avoided antagonizing Trump — meaning it didn't deliver the dueling 2024 appearances that could be in his and Trump's near future.
Trump also played nice Sunday, saying that Florida would "reelect Ron DeSantis as your governor." But he was more confrontational during a Pennsylvania rally on Saturday, referring to Florida's governor as "Ron DeSanctimonious."
It's a rivalry that's been simmering for more than a year as DeSantis has taken increasingly bold steps to boost his national profile and build a deep fundraising network — even as Trump remains unquestionably the party's most popular leader.
Amid the budding GOP rivalry for next cycle, Democrats were still hopeful of holding their narrow control of the House and Senate — despite Republican pronouncements that their party was in for a big night.
The GOP says voters will rebuke Democrats amid surging inflation, concerns about crime and pessimism about the direction of the country. History suggests any party in power will suffer significant losses in the midterms.
First lady Jill Biden campaigned Monday for Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton in a part of northern Virginia that Joe Biden carried two years ago. It could be an early indicator of GOP midterm strength should Wexton's seat flip to her Republican challenger, Hung Cao.
The first lady told about 100 people outside a home in Ashburn, about 30 miles from Washington, that the race could come down to a tiny margin of votes, while, in Congress, a "Republican majority will attack women's rights and health care."
Weisert reported from Washington. Associated Press Writer Chris Megerian contributed to this report.