The Democrats have won control of the House of Representatives, and look to be on course to pull off a big lead in the popular vote, surpassing that of the Republican Party in their midterm victories of 2010 and 2014, and equalling their own lead back in 2008, when Barack Obama led the party to victories in the Senate, House and the Presidency.
Underlining the woe for the Republican Party, as Ezra Klein notes over at Vox, is that unlike in 2014, 2010, 2008 or 2006, the fundamentals – the strong economy, a nation not embroiled in an unpopular war, and so on – that are usually a good guide to how American elections play out, point to a much less painful night for the Republican Party. Just as Trump underperformed in 2016 relative to how political scientists would “expect” a Republican challenger to do given the health of the economy and the two-terms that the Democrats had been in the White House, but not badly enough for him to lose, so, too, are the Republicans paying a “Trump tax” in these elections.
It’s also a good night for American pollsters, who called the vast majority of the races correctly.
That’s the good news, now here’s the bad. Although the Democrats’ hopes in the Senate, where they were defending a number of seats in strongly pro-Trump territory (unlike the House of Representatives, where every Congressman is elected every two years, the Senate goes up in thirds every two year) and with limited options for gains. Some losses were expected, but they would have hoped to be in a position where winning control of the Senate was a realistic possibility at the next elections in 2020. Instead, their overall net losses means that they realistically will be the minority party in the Senate until 2022 at the earliest.
These results confirm what we already knew: Americans are increasingly voting in a more “normal” way, with fewer and fewer states voting Democratic at one level and Republican at another. Democrats won their majority through the suburban areas that had largely rejected Trump in 2016 and did so this time in even larger numbers, but their Senate performance saw Democrats in Republican states largely washed away. For the Republicans, it is a reminder that it is growing more difficult (but of course not impossible, as Trump demonstrated in 2016) for their coalition to win elections at a presidential level and harder still for them to win a majority or even a plurality of votes. For the Democrats, it is a reminder that it is growing difficult for them to win Senate majorities (but, equally, it isn’t impossible either.)
For Trump, he has the big prizes of the Ohio and Florida governorships, where two Republican governors will continue to set election rules, giving him a significant boost as far as his prospects of retaining those two states – and their vital electoral college votes in 2020.
But the big and good news for Democrats is that regardless of whether Trump can eke out another win in the presidential election, his domestic agenda is dead in the water thanks to their control of the House, which they have solid hopes of retaining come what may in 2020.