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Forecast podcast: US midterm elections end as battle for Senate control continues

People sit at voting booths at a school.

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Joe Veyera discuss the US midterm elections, plus more on Lebanon getting a new president, marches against electoral reform in Mexico, NASA’s moon mission and Ukraine getting set to finalise new agreements with the International Monetary Fund.

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These stories and others are also available in our free weekly Forecast newsletter.

This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Agnese Boffano, Irene Villora, Awais Ahmad, Jess Fino and Joe Veyera.  Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed? Drop us a note: hello@factal.com.


Factal Forecast podcast transcript

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.

JIMMY LOVAAS, HOST:

Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is November 10th.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got Lebanon getting a new president, marches against electoral reform in Mexico, NASA’s moon mission, Ukraine’s new IMF agreements and a look at the US midterm elections.

You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.

Lebanon elects new head of state

Information compiled by Agnese Boffano

JIMMY: Lebanon’s parliament will hold a special session on Sunday. They’ll be electing the country’s next president.

Former President Michel Aoun resigned after his six-year term ended on Oct. 31. 

And despite four rounds of voting, Lebanon’s parliament repeatedly failed to elect a new head of state ahead of the resignation, which means the upcoming session will be the first time lawmakers will meet without having either a president or cabinet. 

Incumbent Prime Minister Najib Mikati, however, ruled that his caretaker government would be able to assume the presidential powers until a substitute is found. That, despite Aoun’s outgoing speech calling for lawmakers to withdraw confidence.

Now, according to the country’s sectarian system, the president is always a Maronite Christian elected in a secret ballot by lawmakers in the 128-seat parliament, but in order to reach quorum, each candidate will need to secure seats from other alliances and factions. 

The Hezbollah bloc’s preferred candidate appears to be Suleiman Frangieh, a pro-Syria lawmaker. Other likely candidates from the anti-Hezbollah bloc include Aoun’s son-in-law, Gebran Bassil. 

Whoever is elected head of state will be charged with securing an IMF deal that was drafted earlier in May. That deal is a first step in tackling the years-long financial crisis that has driven more than 80 percent of the population into poverty.

March against electoral reform in Mexico

Information compiled by Irene Villora

JIMMY: Mexico’s opposition, trade unions and civil society associations have called for marches in at least a dozen cities across the country on Monday. 

The marches are against an electoral reform bill that seeks to cut political parties’ public funding, a reduction of seats in parliament and the replacement of the National Electoral Institute. 

The main concern among those ready to march is the substitution of the electoral institute for a new regulatory body with fewer members and whose councilors and magistrates would be appointed by popular vote.

The government has defended the reform, claiming it would save the Mexican treasury some 24 million pesos ($1.23 million) in public spending. 

The project, however, has been criticized as an attempt by President Andres Manuel López Obrador to pave the way to hegemonic power. 

The Mexican president, meanwhile, has criticized the National Electoral Institute in the past. He claims the watchdog concealed the results of a survey showing an overwhelming support for the reform from more than 90 percent of citizens.

NASA Artemis I moon mission launch attempt

Information compiled by Awais Ahmad

JIMMY: Following a series of delays, NASA is set to launch its historic Artemis I mission on Wednesday. 

NASA says Artemis I is the first in a series of missions “to build a long-term human presence” on the moon. 

The unmanned mission will test the capabilities of the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft and ensure safety before the first flight with a crew on Artemis II. 

That mission will bring humans close to the surface of the moon for the first time since 1972.

Now, the Artemis I mission has been marred by several delays due to technical issues and severe weather. 

The launch, which is set to occur at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, was previously postponed at the end of September due to Hurricane Ian. And now, with Tropical Storm Nicole expected to make landfall in Florida as a hurricane, the mission was delayed again, this time by just two days. 

A successful launch on Wednesday will see an expected splashdown on Dec. 11, marking the first step towards landing humans back on the moon.

Ukraine set to finalize IMF agreements

Information compiled by Jess Fino

JIMMY: Ukraine is expected to finalize an agreement with the International Monetary Fund next Thursday. It will come after a week-long mission by the financial agency.

Ahead of the agreement, Ukraine recently kept interest rates unchanged, while warning of high inflationary pressure.

Now, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February this year, the country has been hit by a decline in its gross domestic product, high inflation and severe disruptions in its trade. 

To help offset the impact on Russian aggression, IMF and Ukrainian officials have discussed the possibility of a new loan program to help with its state budget for 2023. 

The country is expected to receive $20 billion from the United States and the IMF next year, in addition to the $18 billion in aid promised by the European Union.

US midterm elections

Information compiled by Joe Veyera

JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is a look at the US midterm elections. For more on that I spoke with our lead for The Americas desk, Joe Veyera.

JIMMY: Hello, Joe.

JOE: Hi, Jimmy. Thanks for having me.

JIMMY: Well, you know, let’s just, let’s just dive right into this. I can’t imagine anyone listening to a news podcast isn’t aware there was an election yesterday, so let’s just start off with, maybe, what happened?

JOE: So, where to begin! Simply put, the anticipated backlash against President Biden and the Democrats didn’t really come to fruition. Now, they did lose some seats in the House, particularly in Florida and New York, but they were able to offset that with some surprising pickups in North Carolina, Ohio, New Mexico and Colorado, so we still don’t know who has control of that chamber, something that seemed like a foregone conclusion for the Republicans heading into Tuesday. As for the Senate, John Fetterman notched a crucial pickup for the Democrats, taking the seat held by outgoing Republican Pat Toomey against Mehmet Oz, while the GOP held competitive races in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Ohio. Democrats also won re-election in closely-watched governor’s races in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Maine, and Michigan, with Arizona and Nevada still up in the air.

JIMMY: Now, can you go into a bit about, you know, why this is a surprising outcome?

JOE: Yeah, so historically, the president’s party loses ground in the midterms. We saw it four years ago when Democrats gained more than 40 seats in the House, and in 2010 when Republicans added over 60. And in the lead up to election day this year, there was this narrative emerging in national media that we were going to see a “red wave” or even a “red tsunami,” based both on what we’ve seen in the past, and polling that appeared unfriendly to Democrats, and that created a bit of a feedback loop. Instead, they held their own. Now, ideally, this would serve as a bit of a wakeup call to national media that we can, in fact, not see the future, and we’d all be better off spending more time focusing on the issues instead of the horse race, but I’m not holding my breath there.

JIMMY: What do you think folks should be watching for next?

JOE: So at this moment, like I said, we still don’t know the balance of power. As far as the House is concerned, the outstanding races in California, Oregon and Washington will probably take another several days at least for us to know the winners. In the Senate, we’re waiting to see if Democratic incumbents Mark Kelly and Catherine Cortez-Masto have held on in Arizona and Nevada, while Republicans need to flip at least one after the result in Pennsylvania. If they do that, and stop me if you’ve heard this one before, Senate control will come down to a runoff in Georgia, this time between Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker.

JIMMY: Yeah, I think I’ve seen that one before. I guess my final question for you, and I’m gonna need you to put on your future-predicting hat, but what does this mean for the next two years?

JOE: You know, I shudder to put on the pundit’s hat, but what I will say is that regardless of who wins the house, that party is going to have a relatively narrow majority to work with. We saw over the past two years that the Democrats were able to shepherd some key pieces of legislation like the American Rescue Plan, the CHIPS Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act with essentially no buffer for defections. If Republicans take at least one chamber, whether it be the House or the Senate, it’s going to put the onus on moderates to cross party lines to pass any legislation. And should they win both, I think we can expect a lot of bills to be vetoed by President Biden.

JIMMY: Well, Joe, I think we could probably stretch this discussion out for several hours, but I think we’ll leave it there for today. I appreciate your getting us up to speed, though. Thank you! 

JOE: Anytime! 

JIMMY: Take care.

JIMMY: As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us.  

Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Agnese Boffano, Irene Villora, Awais Ahmad and Jess Fino. Our interview featured editor Joe Veyera and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, if you have any feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing hello@factal.com.

This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

Copyright © 2022 Factal. All rights reserved.

Music: ‘Factal Theme’ courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Top photo: Election Day 2022 by Phil Roeder (CC BY 2.0)

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