Jake Sherman may be overstating the status quo a bit here, as it wasn’t exactly a good night for Democrats or Republicans. Both went into yesterday’s election expecting a wave behind them, and both ended up disappointed. Although Donald Trump outperformed the pollsters last night — more on which later — he still apparently lost ground in Arizona and Wisconsin.
Democrats, however, were convinced that making Trump the issue would lead to a nationally realigning repudiation. Not only did that not happen, it looks like the GOP made some modest gains in the House (via Tom Elliott):
Jazz is covering the Senate races and the GOP’s surprising resilience in an upcoming post. However, as Sherman suggests, let’s take a look at the House. There are still a number of races left to be called, but the Washington Post sounds very gloomy about Democrats’ prospects. Republicans took back some of the suburban seats they lost, and the Democratic turnout in MAGA-land never really materialized:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats on Tuesday appeared on track to secure another two years in the majority. But as votes were being tallied late into the night, the party looked set to fall drastically short of its bullish predictions that it would cut deep into Trump country to grow its majority.
Rather, several Democratic incumbents the party believed were secure found themselves suddenly out of a job. And GOP districts that Democratic leaders had been eyeing for months landed solidly in Republican control.
Those results come despite the party raising more than $300 million due to the vast energy on the left. Many political handicappers had predicted that the Democrats would pick up between three to 15 seats, growing their 232-to-197 majority. By 2 a.m., with many competitive races still uncalled, an expanded majority seemed increasingly unlikely, however.
The lackluster performance — at least compared with expectations — could have consequences for the presidency: If neither President Trump nor Joe Biden wins 270 electoral college votes, the House has the ability under the Constitution to pick the next president when it convenes in January. Each state delegation is awarded one vote, and whoever wins the backing of 26 delegations wins.
Pelosi focused hard on Pennsylvania and Michigan in order to control more state delegations in the case of a House-settled presidential election. The chances of that actually being contested in the House range between slim and none, but regardless, Republicans still control at least 26 state delegations. It looks like Democrats lost Florida, thanks to a better-than-expected Republican turnout and large gains among Hispanic voters. Both Debbie Murcasel-Powell and Clinton adviser Donna Shalala got bounced out of office by a pair of Hispanic Republicans.
The shock began early, and then intensified as the night wore on:
By 2 a.m., any elation on the Democrats’ part had faded entirely as the Associated Press began calling races for Republicans, including several involving star Democratic freshmen. Rep. Max Rose, the blunt-talking ex-veteran and New Yorker who won in a district Trump carried by double digits, lost. In Oklahoma, Rep. Kendra Horn conceded her race.
Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer, who won her seat in northeast Iowa two years ago, fell to state Rep. Ashley Hinson (R), a former journalist. And in the costliest House race in South Carolina, Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham was defeated by Republican Nancy Mace. Cunningham had taken pains to distance himself from Democratic leaders, voting against Pelosi as speaker.
And so on. Republicans held onto key seats in Texas, where Democrats spent a lot of money on their never-ending project to turn the state blue. They couldn’t even convert the seat held by retiring GOP moderate Will Hurd in TX-23. Here in Minnesota, veteran Collin Peterson got thumped by Michelle Fischbach, a surprise of sorts in an election where Trump barely cracked single digits in the presidential race. Peterson hung on long after his district turned red, but voters in western Minnesota finally had enough.
Republicans are no threat to take the majority in the House, and it’s possible that absentee ballots might change some outcomes in Pennsylvania and Michigan. But it’s clear that Pelosi’s strategic plans are not paying off very handsomely for House Democrats. When she runs again for Speaker, as she has claimed she will do, the remaining and slimmer majority should probably look for a fresher face … and a fresher approach to governing.
One thing’s for sure — this result pretty much guarantees that the lame-duck session ahead will be Let’s Make a Deal time. Neither side gains anything by holding out until the next session, and House Democrats will actually have slightly less leverage after the first of the year.