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Supporters react as they watch news of a projected victory for Democratic candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro, at a midterm election night party for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman, in Pittsburgh, Penn., on Nov. 8.QUINN GLABICKI/Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden is claiming a renewed mandate to protect abortion rights, tighten gun control and cancel student debt after surviving midterm congressional elections relatively unscathed.

The Republicans were narrowly favoured to wrest control of the House of Representatives from the Democrats Wednesday, but photo finishes in dozens of races meant the final outcome might not be known for days. The Senate remained a toss-up, with the majority potentially determined by a runoff in Georgia next month.

Whatever the end result, the President’s party won enough seats to defy pre-election predictions of a Republican landslide, notching an unusually good midterm result for an incumbent party.

Former president Donald Trump, by contrast, was badly damaged by the results as a slew of his hand-picked election-denying candidates went down to defeat. His most formidable rival for the 2024 nomination, Ron DeSantis, was one of the few high-profile Republicans to win decisively.

Result of the United States midterm election 2022. The graphic shows the live result of elections to the House and the Senate.

The Democrats held on to the governorships of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, beating back attempts by election conspiracists to put themselves in charge of the voting systems in states that could decide the next presidential election.

“It was a good day for democracy,” Mr. Biden told reporters at the White House, after weeks of warning that gains by Mr. Trump’s acolytes would put the country on a path to authoritarianism. “Our democracy has been tested in recent years, but with their votes, the American people have spoken.”

The President laid out his policy plans for the next two years, including a national law protecting access to abortion and the banning of assault weapons. He also vowed to do more to tackle inflation and fight crime, two issues on which the Republicans hammered him during the vote.

But whether Mr. Biden can get anything done through Congress is still unclear.

Even a slender Republican majority in the House would stop most of his legislation. It would also launch investigations into the business dealings of Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter, and various White House policies, such as the shambolic retreat from Afghanistan.

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If the Democrats lose the Senate, the Republicans will be able to block Mr. Biden’s judicial appointments.

What’s more, hundreds of election deniers won races across the country at all levels of government, ensuring Mr. Trump’s lie that the 2020 vote was rigged – while rejected by most voters – will remain a feature of U.S. politics.

Still, holding the opposition to modest gains makes it more likely that Mr. Biden can find bipartisan support for at least a few of his priorities, such as continuing to arm Ukraine.

Elections workers continued to count votes Wednesday in dozens of House races, as well as in Senate contests in Arizona, Georgia and Nevada. Any two of these three are necessary for control of the upper chamber.

In Georgia, neither incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock nor former football star challenger Herschel Walker won a majority of votes. Under that state’s rules, the pair will face off again in a runoff on Dec. 6.

Arizona and Nevada are also anyone’s game. While Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly and Republican challenger Adam Laxalt were each ahead in the count in these states, respectively, election analysts and campaign workers described ways their competitors could still win.

In Arizona’s populous Maricopa County, long lineups encouraged voters to deposit early ballots rather than vote in person. Republican challenger Blake Masters would have to dominate in those early ballots to close the gap with Mr. Kelly.

“If he wins by a 25-per-cent margin or more of the early ballots that were dropped off on election day, I think there is a very good path,” said George Khalaf, a Republican pollster.

In Nevada, the outcome lies with roughly 84,000 uncounted ballots collected in drop boxes and mailboxes from around Las Vegas and its suburbs. It’s not clear if that’s enough for incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto to overtake Mr. Laxalt.

“There have to be at least 100,000 ballots out there for Catherine Cortez Masto to have a chance,” said Jon Ralston, CEO of The Nevada Independent, a news organization. “The Democrats have to be winning those, if not two-to-one then close to two-to-one.”

In Arizona’s gubernatorial race, meanwhile, far-right election conspiracist Kari Lake remained in a tight race with secretary of state Katie Hobbs. Ms. Lake and her supporters were already lobbing baseless accusations of election fraud after some polling stations printed ballots too faint for tabulation machines to read.

“We had a big day today and don’t let those cheaters and crooks think anything different,” she told supporters.

In addition to dozens of House members, election deniers won Senate seats in Ohio, where Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance jettisoned his previous criticisms of Mr. Trump to firmly embrace the ex-president, and Wisconsin, where incumbent Ron Johnson eked out a narrow victory after purveying misinformation about vaccines and the Jan. 6 riot, which he called the work of “fake Trump supporters.”

Mr. Trump’s loyalists, however, came up well short in other key states.

In Pennsylvania, Republican Doug Mastriano, who organized buses to take people to the Jan. 6 clash, was trounced by Josh Shapiro in the gubernatorial race. Celebrity television doctor Mehmet Oz lost his Senate bid to Democratic Lieutenant-Governor John Fetterman.

In Michigan, where conspiracists ran for governor, attorney-general and secretary of state, they all lost, and Democrats also took control of the state legislature for the first time in 40 years.

In New Hampshire, Republicans missed a chance to unseat incumbent Senator Maggie Hassan as retired general Donald Bolduc struggled to decide whether or not he believed in Mr. Trump’s conspiracy theories.

Gunner Ramer, a Republican political strategist, said Mr. Trump’s backing of far-right candidates peddling falsehoods about election fraud was the reason the party did so poorly. In pre-election focus groups, Mr. Ramer said, swing voters said they were open to voting Republican, but were repelled by the extreme people running.

“Voters have very real concerns over crime, immigration, gas prices. But when they looked around for Republicans to vote for, the candidates they saw on their ballots were not people they could support,” said Mr. Ramer, political director of the Republican Accountability Project, a group that works against election deniers.

Also helping the Democrats, Mr. Ramer said, was the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade’s abortion protections, which made the party’s base more enthusiastic about voting. In three states – Michigan, California and Vermont – voters approved amending state constitutions to guarantee abortion rights.

Mr. Trump is expected to announce his presidential comeback bid next week. But Tuesday’s shellacking could embolden Mr. DeSantis to challenge him. The Florida Governor was re-elected by a 20-percentage-point margin.

The former president tried to minimize Tuesday’s disastrous results. “A GREAT EVENING,” he wrote on his Truth Social platform.

Mr. Biden said Wednesday that it is his “intention” to run for a second term, but that he would not make a final decision until next year. Asked whether he would prefer to face Mr. Trump or Mr. DeSantis, he said: “It will be fun watching them take on each other.”