The Trump Effect – Why These Midterms Were Different
Republicans may have lost control of the House last night, but the forecasted “Blue Wave” turned out to be little more than a “Blue Splash.” Indeed, while Republicans further solidified control of the Senate, which insulates them from losing that majority even though the 2020 midterms, Democrats barely made a dent in the House relative to prior midterms.
While many pundits expected last night to be a repudiation of Trump, even in some Republican losses it’s evident that the opposite was the case.
Anti-Trump Republicans Get Smoked
Some Republicans got smoked – and many of them were anti-Trump. The first casualty of the night was Virginia’s Barbara Comstock, who called on Trump to drop out of the presidential race in October 2016. Among the other anti-Trumpers (including both incumbents and challengers) who lost last night included Mia Love, Carlos Curbelo, Bob Hugin, John Faso, Peter Roskam, and Mike Coffman.
As CNN’s Jake Tapper noted, you can expect the next Congress to be more pro-Trump as a result, despite fewer Republicans in office.
Lots of GOPers losing tonight — Coffman, Curbelo — have been critical of POTUS ….meaning the next GOP House conference will be much more Trump-supporting
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) November 7, 2018
And Trump reacted to that news in pure Trumpian fashion during his press conference today.
Wow. POTUS now citing by name House Republicans who didn’t embrace him and who lost — Curbelo, Hugin, Faso, Love, Roksam, Coffman
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) November 7, 2018
The Kavanaugh Vote Mattered
Democrat Joe Manchin kept his Senate seat, but it’s likely he would’ve lost it had he voted against the confirmation of SCOTUS Justice Brett Kavanaugh, as evidenced by the fact that every single red state Democrat who voted against Kavanaugh lost. Those Democrats included Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota), Claire McCaskill (Missouri), and Joe Donnelly (Indiana).
Hilariously, the New Yorker’s Jane Meyer prematurely tweeted out early results from Donnelly’s race as “proof” that the Kavanaugh vote didn’t matter.
So much for the vaunted Kavanaugh Effect even in a Red State. https://t.co/tYcKKafxzB
— Jane Mayer (@JaneMayerNYer) November 7, 2018
House Losses Were Far Less Than Historical Averages
On average, the party opposing the President will pick up seats during midterm elections, while the party supporting the President loses seats. This was on full display on the midterm elections under Barack Obama, but hardly as noticeable last night. Since 1902, the president’s party has lost an average of 424 seats in the midterms. Trump lost 330 (25% fewer than average). Note that those are national figures, meaning that in addition to Congress they’re also including State legislatures.
When it comes to federal Congress specifically, the President loses 37 seats on average during the first midterm election of their presidencies. Trump lost only 26 (30% fewer than average), while Bill Clinton lost 53 (despite a roaring economy – and no Lewinsky scandal yet), while Obama lost a historic 63.
Trump also performed extremely well relative to his approval rating. A Gallup analysis found that when a President has an approval rating below 50% (as Trump does), they have lost an average of 37 House seats, while Trump only lost 30.
Senate Solidified Until 2020 – or 2022
As of writing, there is one undecided Senate race with the Republican candidate ahead, Martha McSally in Arizona. Florida’s Rick Scott is having his win contested. If both win as expected, the GOP will hold 53 Senate seats, creating a margin of safety unless something catastrophic happens before the next midterms. In the 2020 midterms there will only be three Senate seats that Democrats can reasonably try to flip – while Republicans would still maintain a technical majority – 50 seats plus the Vice President.
And remember, even if the Dems pick up all three of those Senate seats (bouncing Gardner, Tillis and Ernst), they're still giving back Doug Jones' seat in AL to the GOP. It's hard to see how they take the Senate in 2020, or 2022 for that matter, absent a massive recession.
— Esoteric Jeff (@EsotericCD) November 7, 2018
In other words, if everything goes perfectly for Democrats in 2020, they can hope for a tie.
And Liberals Aren’t Happy
Liberal pundits certainly aren’t treating last night as a victory. CNN’s Van Jones called the results “heartbreaking,” and that he expects Democrats to have a feeling of hopelessness today. “This is heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking. The hope has been that the antibodies would kick in — that this sort of infestation of hatred and division would draw a response from the American people, really in both parties, to say ‘no’ and ‘no more,'” he said. “That does not seem to be happening tonight. It’s not a blue wave, it’s still a blue war,” he added.
CNN’s Jake Tapper echoed much of the same elsewhere. “When you look at what’s going on here tonight, this is not a blue wave,” he said on air. “This is not a wave that is knocking out all sorts of Republican incumbents.”
I guess the tide was low.