What happened on election day 2018? Simple—a blue wave ran up against a red wall, and very little got through it.
Historically, the typical loss of seats in the House of Representatives by the President’s party is about 31 seats, and that is about exactly the result from the 2018 midterms (votes are still being tabulated in a handful of districts). The typical loss in the Senate is four seats, and Republicans defied that by gaining a net of three. This President is only the third in a century to actually gain Senate seats.
In many ways, Tuesday was more a realigning election than anything else. Democrats took back some seats that had traditionally been “blue” in the past. The same is true of the GOP in the Senate, as all the defeated Democrats hailed from the “red” states President Trump won handily. The fallen were Bill Nelson of Florida, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Claire Mccaskill of Missouri. All voted “no” on Judge Kavanaugh, and that was a factor that hurt the Democrat in each of the races, except Florida where other issues dominated. Two victorious Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana squeaked by.
But what about that 30-seat gain in the House? Democrats achieved this with a heavy dose of pragmatism this go around. Consider Rep. Conor Lamb. He was the only victorious Democrat in a special election in two years. How’d he do it in a Pennsylvania district that Trump won? Lamb is a former federal prosecutor and Marine who ran as a centrist (some would say he qualifies as a moderate Republican), supporting gun rights and President Trump’s steel tariffs. He is also personally pro-life. Lamb was easily re-elected November 6th.
It was the leftists like Ocasio-Cortez that grabbed so many of the headlines in 2018, but across the country Democrats quietly recruited a much more moderate team of candidates like Lamb who were uniquely tailored to the local needs of individual districts. A great many won. However, the party’s up and coming “superstars” did not fare well. These included Beto O’Rourke, Andrew Gillum, and Stacy Abrams. Each lost high profile races in Texas, Florida, and Georgia respectively.
What’s next? Consider what Conor Lamb told CNN the day after the election. “I want to build infrastructure and get prescription drug prices down.” He expressed no interest in impeachment or seeing the President’s tax returns. Lamb also noted he will not support Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the house. Several victorious House Democrats pledged the same thing in their own campaign across the country. So, all eyes will now be focused on the Speaker’s election as soon as the new Congress convenes in January.