By Sam Tarr
Nearly a week after the 2018 midterm elections, key races were still outstanding in Florida, Georgia, and California. However, that didn’t stop both sides from trying to seize claims to victory. Democrats pointed to a gain of 33 seats in the House of Representatives and seven Governorships. Republicans breathed a sigh of relief as they maintained control of the Senate, gaining at least one seat.
The party in control of the White House has lost seats in Congress in every midterm since 1946, except Bill Clinton and George W Bush in 1998 and 2006 respectively. When Republicans lost 30 seats in 2006, Bush referred to it as a “thumping.” When Democrats lost 63 seats in 2010, Barack Obama labeled the loss a “shellacking.”
Donald Trump, in a press conference the day after the election, categorized his party’s performance as “very close to complete victory.”
“It was a big day yesterday, an incredible day,” Trump said. “And last night, the Republican Party defied history to expand our Senate Majority while significantly beating expectations in the House for the midterm year.”
Most pollical analysts predicted that the Republicans would maintain control of the Senate, pointing to several difficult races in North Dakota and Missouri where Trump won by big numbers in 2016. It wasn’t until late in the election cycle where those like Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD., began speculating about a complete Democratic takeover of Congress.
With the numbers coming in, resembling the predicted “blue wave” that Democrats were hoping for, the Trump led the GOP’s focus on Senate victories to balance the narrative. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded to the president shortly after his press conference.
“When the president says what happened in the Senate more than undoes the losses they suffered across the board elsewhere, he’s delusional,” Schumer said. “If we had told you a year ago, we were only going to lose two or three seats, people would have said forget it, what are you smoking?”
However, the GOP managed to claim some major victories including against some of the Democrats most promoted candidates.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, fended off challenger US Rep. Beto O’Rourke who captured national attention. O’Rourke kept the race surprisingly competitive into the late hours of the evening, even though a Democrat has not won a statewide election in Texas since the 80’s.
Republican Brian Kemp of Georgia sits at just above the threshold for victory in the state’s race for governor. Pending the certification of the results, which are being held open as a result to voter suppression concerns, Kemp is set to win over Stacey Abrams who garnered the support of former President Obama and Oprah Winfrey on the campaign trail, as she sought to become the nation’s first black female governor.
Also, Democrat Andrew Gillum’s hopes at becoming Florida’s first black governor look to be coming up just short, pending the results of a recount. Ron DeSantis embraced President Trump unabashedly throughout the campaign, one that was criticized heavily for its racial undertones.
However, it was not all bad news for “firsts.”
Sharice Davids of Kansas and Deb Haaland of New Mexico, both Democrats, became the first Native American women ever elected to Congress. Democrats in Minnesota, Ilhan Omar and Michigan, Rashida Tlaib, became the first Muslim women to serve, as they both won their respective House races.
Also, claims that this year was another “year of the woman” came to fruition as there are now 124 women elected to Congress, including 10 Senate holdovers. It is a new record for women serving in the legislature, exceeding the previously held record of 107.
As Democrats celebrate the regaining of the House, the overall results fell short of the “blue wave” many party insiders were hoping for. Although, apart from President Trump, few Republicans would call Tuesday’s election a “victory,” the GOP did maintain strong support in key districts whose support for the President hasn’t wavered since 2016.
Moving forward, Trump will have to navigate the Presidency without the aid of a united congress. Republicans will have an even tougher time passing any kind of legislature throughout a Democratic-controlled House. And Democrats will balance agendas as they look to hold the president accountable with their newly won powers of investigation and building momentum for what is sure to be a vicious 2020 election.