On Election Night, Republicans were able to tell themselves a comforting story about how the midterms had gone.
Yes, Republicans had lost control of the U.S. House after eight years, putting to an end their unified control of the federal government after only two years. But voters almost always punish the president’s party in the midterm elections, especially when there is unified control. Republicans, meanwhile, had defeated several Senate Democrats and appeared to be on track to gain at least three seats in that chamber. On Election Night, it looked as though they had suffered fewer losses than expected in the House and in governorships. In the electorally important states of Florida, Iowa, and Ohio, they had won governor’s races where they had not been favored. There had been no “blue wave,” Republicans said.
The more time has elapsed since the polls closed, however, the less justified Republicans’ relief has seemed. As more votes were counted, Democrats won more and more House seats. At this writing, they have taken 36 seats from the Republicans, which is the most they have gained in a midterm since 1974, following Watergate and President Richard Nixon’s resignation, when Democrats picked up 49 seats.