Election night: Indiana, Tennessee, Texas; Update: No blue wave? Update: ABC calls it for Mike Braun; Update: Bloomberg calls it for Marsha Blackburn; Update: Fox projects Dem House majority; Update: ABC calls it for Ted Cruz

Update: And now CNN calls the House for Democrats. The countdown to the first subpoena served on the White House begins.


David French is unfortunately right about this:

The GOP doesn’t have a program anymore. Trump has a program. All the GOP does, really, is spend money and confirm judges — and the good news from tonight is that they’ll continue to do the latter for the next two years. As I write this, Josh Hawley is holding an impressive lead over McCaskill in Missouri (albeit with lots of Democratic votes still out) and Martha McSally is very narrowly ahead of Kyrsten Sinema with more than half the vote in. Rick Scott seems poised to win the Senate race in Florida as well, generating yet another GOP pick-up. If Scott and Hawley come through, that’s 55 seats — for the moment, with Arizona, Nevada, and Montana still pending. I’ll leave this thread here on that note, with John following the latter three races. It looks like the worst-case scenario for Republicans this evening will be a 53/47 Senate, a Collins- and Murkowski-proof majority. Not bad. Could’ve been a lot worse given how midterms tend to go with a not-very-popular new president in office.

Update: Wowwwwwwww. The most painful loss of the night for Dems:

Expect lots of lefty fingerpointing tomorrow about racism. Lots lots lots.

Update: DeWine did it.

He’ll replace John Kasich. John Ekdahl tweets, “Wow, Republicans flip the Ohio Governors mansion.”

Update: Yet another Democratic star in the making appears to be going down in a statewide race. Stacey Abrams was the first black woman ever nominated as governor by a major party and was nip and tuck in the polls with Republican Brian Kemp in Georgia. As I write this at 10:35 ET, with more than 50 percent reporting, Kemp leads by double digits. Abrams, Beto, and Gillum all losing tonight is a bitter pill for lefties to swallow. Although a House majority is a little sugar to make the medicine go down.

Update: Now NBC is calling the House for Dems. Very quietly, they’ve already piled up something like 17 flips as of 10:25 ET. Another six is all it’ll take. It’s basically a foregone conclusion.

If that bums you out, try to imagine a world in which the GOP has enough senators that it’ll be able to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court even without Collins and Murkowski voting yes. Because that’s the world we’re likely to wake up to tomorrow.

Update: And there it is. The “tier three” longshot states are off the board. The Senate is safe.

Betomania isn’t dead yet, though. Cruz’s projected win is now down to four points or so at the Upshot. O’Rourke will say tomorrow that he ran as a very proud progressive, set fundraising records by doing so, and finished very respectably in a state where leftists are supposed to be roadkill. If he can lose by five or six in Texas, couldn’t he win by three or four in Michigan and Ohio? That’ll be the case made by Betomaniacs. Many will consider it.

Update: At around 10:15 ET, news is streaming in of a few more Democratic pick-ups in the House. FiveThirtyEight’s model is now back to 90 percent in predicting a Democratic takeover. It looks like they’re going to pull it off, just not with the gargantuan numbers some feared. From Trump’s perspective, though, a small Democratic majority is (almost) as bad as a large one. Oversight from the House is what he was hoping to avoid. It’s oversight he’ll end up getting now.

Update: Hoo boy. Kris Kobach couldn’t win a race in Kansas?

Expect the “Kobach for AG” push to begin tomorrow. With Republicans retaining control of the Senate, he stands a real chance of confirmation, too.


Update: Increasingly it looks like Democrats will get what they need tonight, but not what they want:

What they need is a House takeover. What they wanted were big emotional wins in Florida and Texas with Gillum and Beto and maybe a blue wave that would carry them to, if not a Senate majority, at least a Senate where Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski had veto power. It looks like they’re not going to get any of that, although there are still plenty of battleground Senate seats on the board. Although, just as I write that, I see that North Dakota has indeed been called for Kevin Cramer. Another GOP pick-up.


Update: People are chattering about John James leading Debbie Stabenow in Michigan, but don’t get too excited. Lotta blue votes still out there. Right now the Upshot forecasts a win for Stabenow by nine or so points. They’ve also revised their projections for a Cruz win in Texas down to around 7.5 points, which would be very close to the polling average.

Update: Don’t look now, but with about two-thirds reporting, Republican Mike DeWine is leading Democrat Richard Cordray by seven in the race for governor of Ohio. Cordray led in most polls of that race. If DeWine ends up winning easily, and with Gillum falling short in Florida and O’Rourke on track for defeat in Texas, we may hear even more chatter about Sherrod Brown tomorrow. If he, almost uniquely, can win handily in Trump country, why not give him a look in the 2020 primaries?

Update: Cruz now has a bit of breathing room with 76 percent or so of the vote in, leading O’Rourke by 1.3 points and about 80,000 votes. Although according to the Upshot’s forecast, the final result shouldn’t be close: Cruz is on pace to win by a comfortable nine points or so given which counties have still yet to report. If he goes on to win easily, it’ll complicate — although not foreclose — the Beto 2020 chatter.

Update: At 9:45 ET, with an estimated three-quarters of the vote in, Cruz has finally inched ahead in Texas by 0.9 points. Don’t go anywhere.

Update: You’ll hear this point from Kristen Soltis Anderson echoed a lot tomorrow:

Just a quick note on the world of polling accuracy: If Republicans win the Florida Senate and gubernatorial contests, that’ll be a surprise to anyone who saw today’s final NBC/Marist poll. It had the Democrats winning each race by 5 points, although the polling averages were a bit closer. But while pollsters can argue about margins of error and such, if a variety of other races break for Republicans, expect these Florida elections to be held up as more proof that the polls are missing out on undercover Republican voters.

If DeSantis and Scott hold on, this will be twice in two years that most pollsters have underestimated the strength of GOP voters in Florida with crushing results for Democrats.

Update: Uh oh.

Look back again all the way at the bottom of this post, to the cheat sheet of House races. There are dozens of toss-ups and even Democratic-favored races being held in Republican districts. Democrats don’t need a huge wave to get to 23. They just needed to do okay in those races where they were competitive. And that’s how it looks like they’ll do — okay, nothing more or less.

Update: A little more good news for the GOP tonight: Cindy Hyde-Smith, who was appointed to fill Thad Cochran’s seat in Mississippi, leads early in that state’s special election. She probably won’t get to 50 percent to avoid a runoff against Democrat Mike Espy, but that’s not what the GOP feared. They feared that populists would turn out in force and boost Chris McDaniel over Hyde-Smith, creating a runoff between Espy and McDaniel — and Espy led McDaniel in some early polling. As it is, Hyde-Smith should win a runoff with Espy without much difficulty.

Update: Checking in on Texas. Hoo boy:

Update: As of 9:26 ET, FiveThirtyEight’s House model has Democrats forecasted to pick up 24 seats — just one more than they’d need to flip the House. The average pick-up for Dems in their modeling before tonight was 39 seats. Much thought will be given tomorrow to why they underperformed if that lower estimate holds (although less thought than the subject deserves if they do narrowly capture the House). Centrist Republicans will point to the economy, which no doubt was hugely important, but remember per the exit poll data below that the economy was just the third-most important issue overall to voters. Barely ahead in second place was immigration, Trump’s key message to motivate his base. In the end, the two messages may have worked in tandem, border issues to turn out populists and pocketbook issues to keep just enough suburbanites in the GOP tent to win tight races.


Update: More than five million votes have been counted in Texas now and O’Rourke still leads, now by three points. Gettin’ a little sweaty. But CNN analyst Harry Enten thinks Cruz is still favored:

I’ve said before, and will say again, that even a narrow defeat will lift O’Rourke’s profile and make him a national possibility in 2020. A win, though, might make him the overnight frontrunner. Before the polls closed tonight nationally, it looked as if the results would in fact vault a Democratic winner into national stardom — namely, Andrew Gillum, who would instantly be a VP shortlister given the chances of him being able to deliver his home state of Florida on the national ticket. As things stand, Gillum looks to be a likely surprise loser in Florida, which will derail that plan. And Beto, meanwhile, is making things interesting. The Democrats might lose the Senate but gain a serious presidential contender in him after tonight.

Update: The odds of a blue tsunami have diminished, says Upshot guru Nate Cohn. The odds of a smaller blue tide that takes back the House — narrowly — have not:

Update: CNN reacts to the Blackburn news:


I think Florida is the real dagger here. If in fact Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson both lose narrowly after leading in most polls for weeks, in the ultimate swing seat, with mini-MAGA Ron DeSantis the new governor, liberals will be inconsolable. Especially considering how having a friendly governor in charge will help Trump there in 2020.

Update: Even a Beto win probably can’t help the Dems now. Bloomberg says Blackburn has Tennessee in the bag.

The polls were touch and go for awhile and Bredesen was no slouch — he’s a former governor and, as I noted earlier, said he would have voted for Kavanaugh — but in the end Tennesseans came home. Whew.

The only suspense left in this thread is the fate of Ted Cruz. And the size of McConnell’s advantage in the Senate next year. We’ll see if Beyonce’s endorsement in Texas matters more than Taylor Swift’s did in Tennessee.

Update: Starting to get a little nervous for Cruz at 9:05 ET. Four million votes have now been counted in Texas and O’Rourke remains ahead by less than a point. Figure on a total of about eight million votes cast tonight, on par with the 2016 presidential election. We’re halfway done, no Beto fade yet. And an O’Rourke upset here would slightly revive Democrats’ Senate chances by offsetting Mike Braun’s win in Indiana.

Update: As I write this at 8:55 ET, Cruz is trailing early and Dave Brat is trailing in his race very late, although by only 600 votes. If both lost, two of the bigger stars of the tea-party era would be gone on the same night — oddly, in an election that’s shaping up to be quite decent, if not good, for the GOP. If Democrats were to flip the House tonight (which remains entirely possible, although likely without any big wave margins), the tea-party-ish Freedom Caucus in the House would be reduced to a minority among the minority, all but powerless. It could be a good night for Republicans but a bad one for small-government dogmatists. At least we still have Mike Lee.

Update: Wowwwwwwww. That about wraps it for Democratic Senate hopes:

Now we shift from a “how might the GOP lose the Senate?” analysis to “how many gains might the GOP pile up?” If Rick Scott pulls the upset in Florida, which is tantalizingly close right now, 55 seats is on the table.

Meanwhile, politicos on Twitter are asking a fair question: Why did Joe Donnelly vote against Brett Kavanaugh? He’s getting washed out here, just as Heidi Heitkamp — another no on the nominee — is likely to be. Meanwhile, Joe Manchin, who voted yes, is winning his race.


Democrats need both of the “tier three” longshot states, Texas and Tennessee, to get to 51 now plus wins in six of the eight “tier one” states. Marsha Blackburn remains far ahead in Tennessee with five percent reporting, but Cruz and Beto O’Rourke are in a dogfight early.

Update: Andy Barr wins the KY-6 bellwether, per NBC. And we have an update in Indiana:

Is Mike Braun going to win this race comfortably?

Update: Good lord. If Democrats lose another election they were supposed to win, they’ll need therapy for a thousand years.

Update: Checking in on the races this thread is supposed to be covering, Cruz is now within two points of O’Rourke and Marsha Blackburn leads big in Tennessee — but just 1-3 percent of precincts in each state have reported. Meanwhile, Indiana is slow as molasses in counting. With 38 percent reporting now, Braun continues to lead by 17 points. Fingers crossed.

Update: Henry Olsen is starting to feel it for Republican Andy Barr in the KY-6 bellwether. That’s a nice sign for the red wall holding off a blue wave:

Politico Ben Tribbett is also seeing softer gains for Democrats than was expected:

As I write this at 8:30, FiveThirtyEight’s real-time forecast of the House has Democrats 57 percent favorites to win a majority. They were 88 percent favorites at the start of the day.

Update: O’Rourke is up 11 points early in Texas, with some major cities reporting. Stay tuned… Meanwhile, the two House races I’ve been tracking — Dave Brat’s race and the McGrath/Barr battle are each within a point as of 8:15 ET with the Republican leading in both cases. Excitement!

Update: We’re almost a third of the way through counting in Indiana and Braun continues to sit on a 16-point lead. Donnelly will obviously cut significantly into that as more urban areas report but the pressure’s on.

Update: It’s 8 p.m. ET and the polls in Texas and Tennessee are closed. The “tier three” states I described below are on the board. Now we’ll see what Betomania! is really made of. Although if Mike Braun continues to put up numbers in Indiana, probably none of it will matter.

Update: Democrat Sherrod Brown easily retains his Senate seat in Ohio, a state Trump won comfortably, by defeating GOP Rep. Jim Renacci. If Democrats conclude that they need a protectionist “white guy from the midwest” in 2020, Brown might get a look. If only as a VP candidate.

Update: Hoo boy. Fully 70 percent reporting now in KY-6 and McGrath leads incumbent Barr by just three-tenths of a point. Trump won this district by 15 points.

Update: Don’t look now but another Republican incumbent is trailing in Virginia. This time it’s a tea-party star, Dave Brat, who famously knocked off Eric Cantor in the primary a few years ago. His race is neck and neck with 20 percent in but he’s slightly behind Democrat Abigail Spanberger.

Update: Comstock’s race has been called at 7:40 ET. She’s the GOP’s first suburban casualty of the night.

Update: A notable number from NBC:

Update: Checking in on Indiana, Braun continues to lead Donnelly by double digits with 14 percent in. Good start, long way to go. The pros at FiveThirtyEight also think Donnelly has his work cut out for him based on the early numbers.

Update: As of 7:30 ET, Virginia Republican Barbara Comstock is down double digits to her Democratic challenger and highly likely to lose, a result many expected. Her district is suburban and Trump is … unhelpful in the suburbs. Larry Sabato takes stock of the GOP’s fortunes in the state:


Update: I’m keeping an eye on KY-6, the red bellwether district I mentioned in the post below. With 39 percent in, Democrat Amy McGrath is up nearly eight points over Republican incumbent Andy Barr. If that holds past 50 percent of precincts of reporting, buzz is going to start building among Dems.

Update: Upshot guru Nate Cohn also sees promising numbers for Mike Braun in Indiana. The cities had better come in big for Donnelly or else Democratic ambitions to retake the Senate are gone with the wind.

Update: Virginia is increasingly a solid blue state but wasn’t even given battleground status this year thanks to the GOP’s decision to nominate reactionary Corey Stewart. They got their reward tonight: The race has been called for Tim Kaine as soon as the polls closed.

Update: I should have mentioned this earlier re: the early exit poll data but it almost doesn’t require saying. If tonight ends up being a bad night for the GOP, Trump’s critics on the Hill will zero in on the fact that our gangbusters economy was somehow only the third-most important issue for voters, behind Trump’s pet issue of immigration. If only he’d emphasized the economy more, they’ll say. In fact, they were already saying it before polls opened today.

Update: Turnout reports across the country are sky high, in some cases approaching the levels you’d expect for a presidential election. Kristen Soltis Anderson draws a lesson from that: “[B]ear in mind that a significant number of voters in pre-election polls indicated that their vote would be about the President — either in support or opposition. So, even if Trump’s name isn’t on the ballot, he is effectively on the ballot in the minds of many voters, which makes sense for why turnout might look more like a presidential year.” That’s bad in some cases — but not so bad in others.

Update: Still ultra-early in Indiana but Henry Olsen likes what he sees so far in this year’s results compared to the GOP’s losing campaign in 2012 against Donnelly:

Update: Big news: Beto! has landed the endorsement of Beyonce, who, for reasons known only to her, waited until about three hours before the polls closed on Election Day to make her preference known. Maybe she’s endorsing verrrry early in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries?

Update: Early exit polls are scarcely better than tea leaves, but if you care, here’s a noteworthy result:

Presumably economy and immigration voters are leaning GOP, health-care voters are leaning Democratic.

(Original post follows below.)


Before we get to it, let me blow your mind with a data point from Politico: “Early voters in three states — Texas, Nevada and Arizona — have already surpassed total turnout in the last midterm election … and more states will blow past their normal non-presidential turnout with just a handful more votes on Election Day.” You read that right. Three battlegrounds (one of which is, uh, Texas, and all of which are held by, uh, Republicans) had already topped their total 2014 turnout before polls opened this morning.

Gonna be a live one tonight.

We’ll have four threads this evening, each one devoted to three different Senate battlegrounds. Let’s look at the big picture first, though: What do Democrats need to do to wrest the Senate majority from Republicans? Because the majority is what it’s all about, as we were recently reminded. There’s no way Joe Manchin crosses the aisle to vote for Brett Kavanaugh if his party has a fragile 51/49 advantage. In fact, there’s no way Joe Manchin would have had a chance to vote on Kavanaugh if his party held the majority; Schumer would inevitably have “paid back” the GOP for Merrick Garland by refusing to hold a floor vote to begin with. That’s what’s at stake. And don’t forget, if the rumors of heavy cabinet turnover after the election are true, McConnell will need at least 50 just to staff the executive branch with people whom Trump likes. Never mind SCOTUS vacancies: Imagine POTUS trying to get a new Attorney General confirmed and having to make Chuck Schumer happy somehow to do it.


So here’s how to think about it. There are three “tiers” of races and Democrats need to clean up in all three to pull it off. It’s barely doable. But if there’s a blue wave tonight? It’s doable.

1. The “holds.” These are the battlegrounds where Democratic incumbents are fighting to retain their seats. And fortunately for the GOP, this is where most of the action is. New Jersey, West Virginia, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, Montana, and Florida — if Democrats go eight for eight in these elections, a clean sweep, then they’ll have a real chance at a majority. But there’s a problem for them. To all appearances, North Dakota has already slipped away. Kevin Cramer leads incumbent Heidi Heitkamp by upwards of 10 points in the polling. If Cramer holds on there then suddenly an already difficult map becomes nearly impossible for Democrats. But let’s say they win every race in this category except North Dakota. Then it’s on to tier two.

2. The pick-ups. These are the battlegrounds where Republican incumbents are fighting to retain their seats. Luckily, there are only two of them, Nevada and Arizona. Unluckily, Democrats have a real chance (and are even marginally favored) to win both thanks to Jacky Rosen and Kyrsten Sinema. If the Dems go seven for eight in tier one, losing only North Dakota, and then pick up Arizona and Nevada, suddenly we’re looking at a 50/50 Senate. Which brings us, very suspensefully, to tier three.

3. The longshots. These are the states that aren’t supposed to be battlegrounds but where the polling gives Democrats a not insignificant chance of a momentous upset. There are two: Texas, where Ted Cruz is trying to beat back Betomania!, and Tennessee, where Marsha Blackburn is holding off popular former governor Phil Bredesen. If Democrats get through tiers one or two having lost only North Dakota, i.e. going nine out of 10 in mostly tight races, winning either Texas or Tennessee would hand them a majority. The good news is that that’s extremely difficult; in fact, with even a single mild GOP upset in tier one, like Josh Hawley knocking off Claire McCaskill, Democrats’ chances at 51 seats will effectively be up in smoke before they even reach tier two. The bad news is that if there’s a blue wave the fate of the next Supreme Court nominee may come down to … Ted Cruz’s personal likability. GULP.

I’m covering Indiana and the two longshots, Texas and Tennessee, in this thread. The reason I’m up first tonight is because most of Indiana’s polls close early, at 6 p.m. ET. (A few parts of the state vote until 7 p.m.) The race between centrist Democrat Joe Donnelly and Mike Braun is too close to be called anytime soon but we may have a verdict within a few hours, giving us our first look at how likely the blue-wave scenario is. If Braun knocks off Donnelly the Democrats’ dream of a majority will be over before it’s begun. And he has a solid chance to do it, too. The recent polling via RCP:

That +7 number number for Donnelly (from a Fox News poll, of all things) sticks out like a sore thumb, with the Republican Braun notching an implausible 38 percent of the vote in a red state just a week or so before Election Day. I think it’s a coin-flip race per the other data. If Braun wins the “coin toss” then Republicans will hang onto their Senate majority, with the suspense tonight purely a matter of how big their margin will be.

The late polling in Tennessee, meanwhile, is … not a coin flip:

Those aren’t the sorts of gaudy Republican margins we’re used to seeing in Tennessee but a win is a win and Blackburn’s on track. GOP analysts have been chattering in the last few weeks that Bredesen is still in this, though, and given his name recognition in the state and his canny positioning as a quasi-independent (he said he would have voted for Kavanaugh) he’s not to be underestimated. But the numbers here are reassuring: Blackburn is either near or at 50 percent in most polls while Bredesen can’t seem to get out of the mid-40s. See why this one is in the longshot category?

Now, Texas. I’m going to use FiveThirtyEight’s poll table for this one instead of RCP’s since it includes more surveys. Deep breath:

In all the many (many) polls of Texas taken this year, Cruz has trailed in exactly one, and that was two months ago. As you can see, he’s also either right at or above 50 percent in most surveys, pointing to a win. But the fact is that this race has tightened somewhat in the last week, with two different polls showing his lead at less than four points and one hair-raising survey from Change Research (a Democratic firm) showing the race even at 49. Cruz is a 78.8 percent favorite to win per FiveThirtyEight, for good reason: He’s a conservative running in a conservative state; he’s a cautious, calculating politician who doesn’t make sloppy mistakes; and he has the economic winds at his back. But Betomania! really is a thing among liberals, with O’Rourke having received and spent oceans of money to turn out Democrats. I refer you again to the factoid from Politico posted at the top of this thread. Enthusiasm to vote in Texas is such that early voting has already exceeded total voting in 2014. The left will be out in force for their guy tonight. It’s probably not enough for him in a state like Texas. Probably. But let’s hope we don’t have to find out with the Senate majority on the line.


In case Cruz holds on, though, the media is already pre-spinning the outcome for its new favorite politician:

Polls close in Tennessee and Texas at 8 p.m. ET so this thread will be preoccupied with the Indiana race at the start. But not just that race; all four of us will be commenting on House and gubernatorial races as well. If you need a cheat sheet for House elections, I highly recommend this one from Dave Wasserman and Cook Political Report to give you a quick sense as returns come in from battleground districts of who’s “supposed” to be winning.

Lotttttttta Republican-held districts are in play, very few Democratic-held ones are. (But you already read this post so you’re well aware of that.) In fact, the very first race of the night that’ll be worth paying attention to is Kentucky’s Sixth District, where Republican Andy Barr is trying to hold off Democrat Amy McGrath in a solidly red district. That’s a pure toss-up and we’ll likely have results early, since Kentucky’s polls close at 6 p.m. ET. If McGrath knocks off Barr the “blue wave” chatter will begin immediately, particularly if she wins comfortably. If Barr holds on, liberal anxiety on social media will be zesty. I’ll be following returns and analysis from FiveThirtyEight, The Upshot, and Decision Desk HQ and all the maddening bilious chatter of social media that I’m capable of digesting before I start to vomit blood. Updates will be added at the top of the thread, and there will be many. Good luck — we’re all counting on you.

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David Strom 5:30 PM | June 18, 2024