Three CNN journalists discussed the implications of November’s midterm election results at the School of Media and Public Affairs Thursday.
The panelists broke down several notable races and discussed how President Joe Biden’s administration is reacting to the results. The event, held at the Jack Morton Auditorium, marked the year’s final CITIZEN by CNN panel at GW, a series of discussions about current political events led by CNN journalists.
National political reporter Dan Merica led the conversation, joined by Daniella Diaz, CNN’s Capitol Hill reporter and Jeff Zeleny, CNN’s chief national affairs correspondent.
The panel started the conversation with a look into the upcoming runoff for Georgia’s Senate race. Incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., leads former football player Herschel Walker, R, but fell short of the necessary 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.
“The question is, can Herschel Walker grow as a candidate?” Zeleny said. “Can his campaign organization strengthen? They didn’t have much of a ground operation. They were sort of relying on Brian Kemp, the governor’s operation.”
Democrats flipped Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat after a contentious race between Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, D-Pa., and Republican television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz. Merica said Fetterman’s campaign struggled with responding to a stroke that Fetterman suffered over the summer.
“When his team decided that it was time to come into his room and leave their boiler room, which is where they’re watching all the data come in, his campaign manager came up to him and said ‘John, you may not get the blue checkmark from the AP and news outlets tonight, but you’re going to be the next senator from Pennsylvania,’” Merica said. “And at that moment, one outlet called the race. Apparently the room went crazy and Fetterman smiled and broke down and wept.”
Control of the House is still up for grabs, according to CNN, though Diaz said Republicans are likely to flip and control the chamber. She said a GOP House majority will likely be narrow.
“If you asked me a week ago whether I expected there to be a huge margin with Republicans taking the majority of the House, I would’ve said yes, probably like 20 seats” Diaz said. “Now we expect less than ten.”
The panel also discussed former President Donald Trump’s role in the Republican Party. Zeleny said many Republicans are blaming Trump for the party’s underperformance on Tuesday.
“He emerged in a new way at the end of this race to take a premature victory lap, essentially,” Zeleny said. “I was at a rally he had last Thursday night in Sioux City, Iowa, and it was mainly about him and election grievances. He thrust himself in the middle of this conversation. He went to Florida, he went to Pennsylvania, he went to Ohio. Mehmet Oz did not want him to come to Pennsylvania on the eve of the election.”
Zeleny said the Biden administration is prepared for a series of investigations into the president and his family if Republicans take the House. CNN recently reported such probes are a top priority for the House GOP.
“It doesn’t matter the size of the majority, because even if it’s a one-seat majority, there will still be a Chairman of the Oversight Committee,” Zeleny said. “The investigations will sting just as much to the White House if there’s a one-seat majority versus a 30-seat majority, so the reality is the second half of the president’s first term is going to be totally different.”