Tuesday night’s midterm election results were certainly interesting: the next sitting of congress will be divided, with the Democrats controlling the House of Representatives and the Republicans controlling the Senate. However, both chambers swung in opposite directions, with the Democrats taking over the House of Representatives and the Republicans solidifying their lead in the Senate.
In my previous projections for Tuesday’s elections, I surprised myself with how close my Senate and Gubernatorial predictions were. A couple of states in each case were different, but my overall numbers were pretty accurate. My House of Representatives totals underestimated the Democrats slightly. However, whatever people’s projections were, there is certainly a lot to discuss. Here are eight key points which we can take away from Tuesday’s election.
Urban vs Rural is the main divide in America
Most of the Democrats’ House gains came in urban and suburban districts, where Donald Trump is unpopular amongst Republican voters. As cities and suburbs become more Democratic-leaning, rural areas and small towns are becoming increasingly Republican. Even states like Texas and Oklahoma saw urban and suburban seats move to the Democrats, while rural Republican districts in West Coast states saw stronger Republican leads. If the urban/rural divide is going to be the battleground which the parties now have to fight on, then they’ll have to learn new strategies in order to voters on both sides of the divide. Having said that though…
Red states are getting redder; blue states are getting bluer
Five fewer states have split-Senate delegations after Tuesday’s elections. Fewer voters in certain states are splitting their tickets between both parties. It almost looks as if the days of traditional swing states are over; with more purple states breaking more for one party over another, the number of reliable swing states is getting smaller. With the defeat of Joe Donnelly and Claire McCaskill, the Democrats now hold no statewide offices in Indiana or Missouri. Despite some House of Representatives gains, Iowa and Arizona are still Republican trifectas with two Republican Senators (subject to verification in Arizona). On the other hand, Colorado swung towards the Democrats on Tuesday night in a number of races, while the Republicans in Virginia rolled further back. Democrats and Republicans may need to think more carefully as to which states to spend time, money and resources campaigning in in the future.
The blue wave didn’t hit
While the Democrats made some impressive gains across the country, including gaining control of the House, their gains were largely limited, with the party making a net gain of around 30 seats, much lower than what many pundits were expecting. Furthermore, while the Democrats captured six governors’ mansions, impressive as their victory in Kansas was, many of them were in traditionally Democratic states, including Illinois and New Mexico, this was stacked up against disappointing losses in Iowa, Ohio and – particularly – Florida. Meanwhile, the Democrats’ night in the Senate speaks for itself. The Democrats’ night can best be described as mixed: a mix of impressive and positive gains along with disappointing losses. While the same can be said for the Republicans, a blue wave on Tuesday it certainly wasn’t.
…but Trump’s job may get a bit more difficult
With the House of Representatives now under Democrat control, Congress is now going to see a lot more deadlock. The President is going to need to take a more bipartisan approach to lawmaking in the next congress, as he will no longer be able to rely on House Republicans to push his agenda through. Of course, the risk of a government shutdown is much greater with a Democratic House and Republican Senate, and if both parties remain partisan then another shutdown is something we could well see in the next two years.
Holding the House of Representatives also means that Nancy Pelosi could push for impeachment of Trump, although this would be incredibly risky; the Democrats’ House Majority is not that big, the movement would likely fail, and would not impress voters in 2020 who would likely move to Trump.
Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination didn’t hurt the Republicans
While Dean Heller in Nevada was a Republican casualty in the Senate, the Democrats’ Senate losses were much greater. Red state Democrats who opposed Kavanaugh were defeated: Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Donnelly, Claire McCaskill and Bill Nelson all lost on Tuesday night, and Jon Tester came painfully close to being unseated in Montana. Joe Manchin, who voted in favour of Kavanaugh, survived. While it’s too early to reliably say how much of a role voting against Kavanaugh played in these Senators’ defeats, it certainly didn’t harm the Republicans’ chances too much. Now the Republicans have as greater Senate majority than before, meaning that voting through Supreme Court nominees will only be easier for Trump and Mitch McConnell.
Florida is a reliable bellwether
While the Democrats picked up two congressional districts in the southernmost part of Florida, the Republicans still led the state in terms of the popular congressional vote, taking 54% of the statewide House of Representatives votes to 45.5% for the Democrats. Despite a high-profile campaign, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum was beaten by Republican Ron DeSantis, and Senator Bill Nelson was bested by current Governor Rick Scott by an even slimmer margin (subject to a recount). Ultimately, the Democrats were hoping for a blue wave, and they fell short; the election results in Florida are a good representation of this, as well as showing that – as with two years ago – the Republicans are still quietly winning even though it may not seem like it.
…but Ohio is a red state now.
This is one I included for myself as this is my academic area. While Sherrod Brown – a fairly popular incumbent Senate Democrat – won re-election, it was evident on the night that he was not performing as well over Republican Jim Renacci as he was expected to. According to RealClearPolitics’s polling average, Brown was given poll leads of 14-16 points. However, his margin of victory was only around six points. The Republicans also held on to every statewide office (Governor and Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Treasurer and State Auditor), despite polls saying the gubernatorial race was too close to call and that they were set to lose all the others; Mike DeWine ultimately beat Democrat Richard Cordray by around four points. The Republicans also held onto their supermajorities in both chambers of the state legislature, as well as two highly-competitive House of Representatives districts, including the 12th District which saw a rematch between Congressman Troy Balderson and Danny O’Connor. We will have to wait for the next Presidential election to see if this trend continues.
The road to 2020 has already begun
Of course, another thing we have to remember is that the next time major elections like this take place will be in 2020 when the Presidential election takes place. Everything I’ve discussed in the above takeaways will feed into this: who will be the Democratic nominee? Where will they come from? Will they nominate a clichéd candidate from a Democratic state, like Kamala Harris or Cory Booker, or will they look to middle America for a candidate with broader appeal, like Amy Klobouchar or John Hickenlooper? Will the Democrats move their platform to the anti-Trump left a la Bernie Sanders, or will they try and occupy the centre ground so as to pull in the disaffected-by-Trump Republican vote? How and where will the Democrats focus their campaign? And will Trump be primaried by another Republican candidate? Where are the Democrats’ and Republicans’ centres of political gravity going to be? There is much to be discussed, but the 2020 Presidential race has now begun.
So while we have to wait until January for the new congressional term as well as all the other terms to begin, we can already begin to see the impact that Tuesday’s election results will have on the political map of the US. There is certainly plenty of discussion to be had.