Winning The House Of Representatives Was Job #1 For Democrats

Supporters celebrate Democrat Conor Lamb’s victory in this photo from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (click on it for related story). Lamb, a veteran, was one of the first to devise a winning strategy to defeat a Trump-supported candidate in a heavily Republican district


And They Did That With Room To Spare


Just how big a margin isn’t clear yet. The Democrats needed 23, so far they’ve got 28, according to fivethirtyeight. Here’s what we find to be the most striking visual, courtesy of the New York Times:

Because while the center of the country remains inarguably red, there are slivers and chunks of blue popping up boldly in areas we haven’t seen in years. Not to mention some Midwestern states–which were key to Trump’s 2016 victory–sliding ever-so-slightly out of Trump’s firm grasp, including Michigan, which elected its first woman Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, who’s a Democrat, and who will replace Republican Rick Snyder who was term-limited.

Here’s a chart from fivethirtyeight showing how and where red flipped to blue in House races (and just one race where it went the other way):


Here’s links to live coverage from The New York Times and the Washington Post.

On the positive side for Democrats heading into 2020, some of their biggest margins of victory were in Pennsylvania, a state Trump previously won. Pennsylvania is also interesting because it was one of few gerrymandered states where a court ruled voting districts had to be redrawn, and Republicans were unsuccessful in their efforts to stop that.

Meanwhile, Trump campaigned hard to keep the Senate firmly in Republican hands, and he had success with that. Meaning he’s not likely to change his campaign tactics in the future. And of course congratulated himself on that fact in early morning Tweets. In one, he Retweeted someone who called him “magic man“. In another he quoted someone saying the Republican candidates who won “owe him their political career.” “Thanks, I agree!” the President adds. Which underscores something we’ve warned about: these new batch of Republicans coming in will be much more rabid Trump fans than the Senators they replaced, most of whom pre-dated the President on Capitol Hill.

Trump has scheduled a news conference for 11:30 AM EST. Let’s see if he takes any of the responsibility for losing the House.

Of course, Trump made no mention of embarrassing losses by some of the candidates he supported most fervently, including Kris Kobach–he of Trump’s short-lived voter fraud commission–who was soundly thrashed in his bid for Governor of Kansas by Democrat Laura Kelly. Republican Dean Heller was sent packing in Nevada, defeated by Democrat Jacky Rosen, despite 3 Trump rallies in that state in support of Heller. And another recipient of very heavy Trump support, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker lost too, to Tony Evers, in a very close race.

Meantime, the Senator who may have been #1 on Trump’s hit list: Montana Democrat Jon Tester, remains in a race that’s too close to call at time of publication of this newsletter, but has started lagging as final returns come in from that state’s most rural communities. Tester led the charge against Trump’s nomination of his personal physician to lead the VA, and Trump holds a grudge like almost no one we know.

But no question, Republicans will hold the Senate, and with that their obsessive confirmation of Conservative judges will continue unabated (since the House has no say over that).

Upshot? The overall result gives Democrats something to build on. Which is something no one should lose sight of. Look at the New Democratic Reps who won and a couple of things stand out: the high number who are women, and the high number who are veterans. That’s not by accident. So Democrats now know how to win in the future. And in the meantime they’ve gained some real power to resist.

Democrats racked up a popular vote margin of 9.2% in House races. One might say on that alone they should’ve done even better. But the fact that they did as well as they did is a big plus because it means they prevailed over gerrymandering engineered by Republicans on the state level over decades. And some big wins in state races for Governor might help make that less of a factor in the future. Although Republicans shut out the Democrats’ big “rock stars”: Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams, in Florida and Georgia respectively. Democrats couldn’t swing a win for Governor in Ohio. And Beto O’Rourke more narrowly lost his bid for Ted Cruz’ Senate seat in Texas.

Everyone’s looking at Democrats’ shortfall in the Governor’s race in Florida, but Ohio in some ways might’ve been the most damaging: the Democratic candidate was Richard Cordray, who quit his job as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in order to run. Because of the unique way that agency is set up, Trump could not have fired him. But of course as soon as he left, the President appointed Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to run it in addition to his White House job. He’s been working to render it toothless. And now Cordray isn’t Governor of Ohio either.

Democrats flipped 7 statehouses too, winning a number of key races for Governor, though not as many as they had hoped. We’ll talk more about this tomorrow.

Also, in Florida, voters–by a strong bipartisan majority, 65%–approved a plan to give more than a million felons who have served their time the right to vote again.

By and large, polls were correct this time: Democrats won the House, Republicans won the Senate. Which is what fivethirtyeight has been telling us for a while. Florida was off, as it was in 2016, undercounting Republican power in the state. Which seems to indicate pollsters have still not grappled with how do deal with the level of Trump’s “silent support”: people who won’t publicly admit to supporting Trump and his policies, but do in the voting booth. We remember when we suggested this was a real thing back in 2016 we immediately got tons of angry reactions, accusing us of stirring the pot because “why would anyone give a misleading answer to an confidential poll question”?

At his final rally before election day, in Missouri, where his candidate ended up winning, Trump spoke about unity and the country coming together again. His vision: a day when Democrats would come to him and say “we give in. We give in.” Here’s that clip:


But that’s not unity. That’s a siege. That’s wearing your “enemies” down until they have no strength left but that required to bow down at your feet. Had Democrats not succeeded in creating a split government, Trump might’ve struck that kind of blow. Now, with some real power, there’s no reason for Democrats to back down; no reason to stop fighting.

We’ll leave you with one last tip: when you come across one of the many stories we’re already seeing asking things like “will Democrats winning the House actually help Trump in 2020?”, skip it for now. That’s the kind of speculative horsesh*t that got us into this mess in the first place.