Midterm Elections: Democrats Retake The House, Fall Short In Senate

by Samuel Abasi Posted on November 7th, 2018

Washington D.C., USA : The Democrats took back control of the House of Representatives with a surge of fresh new candidates and an outpouring of voter enthusiasm on Tuesday, breaking the GOP monopoly on power in Washington and setting the stage for a multitude of investigations of President Donald Trump that could engulf his administration over the next two years.

Ending eight years of Republican control that began with the tea party revolt of 2010, Democrats picked off more than two dozen GOP-held districts in suburbs across the nation on the way to securing the 218 seats needed for a majority.

Several races had yet to be decided, meaning the majority could grow still larger.

With the Republicans keeping control of the Senate, the outcome in the House could mean gridlock for Trump’s agenda on Capitol Hill — or, conversely, it could open a new era of deal-making.

As the majority party, the Democrats will chair powerful committees and have subpoena power to seek Trump’s tax returns and more aggressively investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion by the Trump campaign.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called it a “new day in America.”

The campaign unfolded against a backdrop of ugly rhetoric and angry debates on immigration, health care and the role of Congress in overseeing the president.

In locking down a majority, Democratic candidates flipped seats in several suburban districts outside Washington, Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago, Denver and Dallas that were considered prime targets for turnover because they were won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. The Democrats made only slight inroads in Trump country, where they tried to win back white working-class voters.

Midterm elections are typically difficult for the party in power, but the GOP’s hold on power was further weakened by an unusually large number of retirements as well as infighting between conservatives and centrists over their allegiance to Trump.

The Democrats, in turn, benefited from extraordinary voter enthusiasm, robust fundraising and unusually fresh candidates. More women than ever were running, along with veterans and minorities, many of them motivated by revulsion over Trump.

As the returns came in, voters were on track to send at least 99 women to the House, shattering the record of 84 held now.

In trying to stem Republican losses, Trump made only passing reference to his $1.5 trillion tax cut — the GOP Congress’ signature achievement — and instead barnstormed through mostly white regions of the country, interjecting dark and foreboding warnings. He predicted an “invasion” from the migrant caravan making its way toward the U.S. and decried the “radical” agenda of speaker-in-waiting Pelosi.

Trump also took little responsibility for the House, saying his focus was on saving the Senate.

On Tuesday night, he called to congratulate Pelosi and acknowledged her plea for bipartisanship, the leader’s spokesman said.

Health care and immigration were high on voters’ minds as they cast ballots, according to a ranging survey of the American electorate conducted by The Associated Press. AP VoteCast also showed a majority of voters considered Trump a factor in their votes.

In the Miami area, former Clinton administration Cabinet member Donna Shalala won an open seat, while GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo lost his bid for a third term in another district.

In the suburbs outside the nation’s capital, Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock — among the most endangered GOP incumbents, branded Barbara “Trumpstock” by Democrats — lost to Jennifer Wexton, a prosecutor and state legislator.

And outside Richmond, Virginia, one-time tea party favourite Rep. Dave Brat lost to Democrat Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA operative motivated to run for office after the GOP vote to gut the Affordable Care Act. Like other Democrats across the country, Spanberger emphasized protecting people with pre-existing conditions from being denied coverage or charged more by insurers.

Pennsylvania was particularly daunting for Republicans after court-imposed redistricting and a rash of retirements put several seats in play. Democratic favourite Conor Lamb, who stunned Washington by winning a special election in the state, beat Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus in a new district. At least three other red districts flipped to blue.

In Kansas, Democrat Sharice Davids beat a GOP incumbent to become one of two Native American women, with Deb Haaland of New Mexico, elected to the House. Davids is also openly gay.

Democrats welcomed other firsts, including two Muslim-American women, Rhasida Tlaib of Michigan and Minnesota’s Ilhan Oman, who is also the first Somali-American elected to Congress. The Republican side of the aisle elected mostly white men.

But in Kentucky, one of the top Democratic recruits, retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, lost her bid to oust to three-term Rep. Andy Barr in the Lexington-area district.

Republicans had expected the GOP tax plan would be the cornerstone of their election agenda this year, but it became a potential liability in key states along the East and West coasts where residents could face higher tax bills because of limits on property and sales tax deductions.

The tax law was particularly problematic for Republicans in New Jersey, where at least three GOP-held seats flipped. The winners included Democrat Mikie Sherrill, a former Navy pilot and federal prosecutor who ran for a suburban Newark seat.

The GOP campaign committee distanced itself from eight-term Rep. Steve King of Iowa after he was accused of racism and anti-Semitism, but he won anyway.

In California, four GOP seats in the one-time Republican stronghold of Orange County were in play, along with three other seats to the north beyond Los Angeles and into the Central Valley.

“We always knew these races are going to be close,” said Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, co-chair of House Democrats’ recruitment efforts. “It’s just a very robust class of candidates that really reflects who we are as a country.”

Senate

Republicans retained control of the Senate on Election Day, trouncing at least three Democratic incumbents and building upon their 51-49 majority in Congress’ upper chamber.

Contrary to the House, where Democrats flipped at least 25 seats from the GOP to regain control, Republicans fended off Democratic efforts to cut into the slim conservative advantage in the Senate.

Democratic fortunes quickly went south as media outlets projected that Republican challengers Mike Braun, Kevin Cramer and Josh Hawley defeated incumbent Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly, Heidi Heitkamp and Claire McCaskill in Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri, respectively. While Cramer built a substantial polling lead on Heitkamp in recent weeks, Donnelly and McCaskill were thought to be in much tighter races than the vote total would end up revealing.

Democrats were also unable to make gains in Texas and Tennessee — two states where Democratic challengers Beto O’Rourke and Phil Bredesen looked as if they could mount upset victories over Republicans. O’Rourke narrowly lost to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz while Bredesen did not come close to defeating Republican Rep. Martha Blackburn.

Meanwhile, Democrats were dealing with a strong possibility of having a fourth incumbent knocked off in Florida, where Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson trailed Republican Gov. Rick Scott by less than 1 percent with 99 percent of precincts reporting. The race was too close for media outlets to call, but as of the early morning hours of Wednesday, it was not tight enough to trigger an automatic recount.

Still, the night was not a total loss for Democrats, even as Republicans knocked off a series of Democratic incumbents without taking damage.

As was the story for much of the 2018 cycle, the Senate map presented Democrats with narrow opportunities to regain the majority. Ten Democrats — including Donnelly, Heitkamp, McCaskill and Nelson — were up for re-election in states Trump won, whereas just one Republican was up for re-election in a state that 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won.

That Republican incumbent, Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, was knocked off early Wednesday morning by Democratic challenger Jacky Rosen. Media outlets projected a Rosen win shortly after Heller called her to concede the race.

Rosen’s victory marked the only Democratic Senate pickup of the night.

However, here were still two outstanding contested races early Wednesday. In Arizona, Democratic challenger Kyrsten Sinema narrowly trailed Republican Rep. Martha McSally in a battle for Republican Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat. In Montana, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester was fighting off a late push from Republican challenger Matt Rosendale. Both races were too close for media outlets to call.

Earlier in the evening, media outlets projected that Democratic Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia were re-elected. Based on polling of the races, none of those senators’ re-election efforts were ever in much doubt. But Trump did win each of those states in 2016, and Democratic losses there would’ve given Republicans a shot at a 60-vote supermajority.

While House Democrats, set to regain control of Congress’ lower body, prepare for an onslaught of investigatory measures aimed at Trump and his administration, Republican reinforcements in the Senate will provide them with assistance on a few fronts.

Most prominently, more Republican senators will help the party and the president continue to push through conservative judges onto the federal bench. Should another Supreme Court vacancy arise before the 2020 elections, Republicans will have more votes to help them get a nominee through a grueling confirmation battle.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said as much in a tweet after the GOP was projected to retain control of the Senate.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said as much in a tweet after the GOP was projected to retain control of the Senate.

When the GOP maintains control of the Senate, the conservative judicial train is going to keep running! — Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) November 7, 2018

And, with speculation strong that Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be replaced following the election, more Republicans in the Senate means that a potential replacement may have a slightly easier time being confirmed.

Governors

Democrats reclaimed governor’s seats in several key states Tuesday, major steps in their nationwide strategy to reverse years of Republican gains in state capitols.

Still, their victories in Kansas, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Maine and New Mexico were balanced by Republicans holding on to one of the top prizes, Florida, and the governor’s offices in Ohio and Arizona. All three states will figure prominently in the presidential map in two years.

The nation’s other closely watched governor’s race, in Georgia, was considered too early to call by media outlets early Wednesday.

Democrats’ toppling of Republican Scott Walker in Wisconsin completed a sweep for the party in the upper Midwest. Walker was a top target of Democrats and a polarizing figure in his state, sweeping into office during the tea party wave of 2010 and gaining national attention by leading a rollback of union rights that led to protests inside the state Capitol. He survived a recall attempt before falling short in a bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

The win by Democrat Tony Evers gives his party a chance to undo some of Walker’s accomplishments, including a strict voter ID law and the law that effectively ended collective bargaining for public workers.

Likewise, Democrats hope their victories signal a resurgence for their party in America’s heartland, where President Donald Trump romped in 2016.

“I think the message is a simple one. A candidate with a moderate tone but progressive in thinking can win in the heartland,” former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, said. “Winning the governorships is huge in beginning the process of changing the direction of our politics.”

In Michigan, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer defeated Republican Bill Schuette, upending years of Republican control in the state. The former legislative leader will become the second female governor in a state where Democrats heavily targeted other statewide and legislative offices.

Image : House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calls for unity after Democrats win control of the House of Representatives

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Samuel Abasi

Samuel Abasi

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