Hawke's Bay Today
Democrats take House
Republicans hold on to Senate at end of bitter campaign
Democrats yesterday gained control of the House of representatives but Republicans held their Senate majority as voters rendered a mixed verdict in the first nationwide election of Donald Trump’s turbulent presidency.
The Associated Press reported that Democrats picked up at least 23 House seats, putting them within reach of the 218 seats needed to take the House from Republicans.
The results allowed both parties to claim partial victory, but highlighted an extraordinary realignment of US voters by race, sex and education. Republicans maintained their strength in conservative, rural states, while Democrats made inroads across the nation’s suburbs.
With control of Congress, statehouses and the President’s agenda at stake, some of the nation’s top elections were too close to call.
Yet the Democrats’ dreams of the Senate majority as part of a “blue wave” were shattered after losses in many of the top Senate battlegrounds: Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee, North Dakota and Texas. They also suffered a stinging loss in Florida, where Trump-backed Republican Ron DeSantis ended Democrat Andrew Gillum’s bid to become the state’s first African-American governor.
In the broader fight for control in the Trump era, the political and practical stakes yesterday were sky high.
Democrats could derail Trump’s legislative agenda for the next two years with control of the House. And they would claim subpoena power to investigate Trump’s personal and professional shortcomings.
Some Democrats have already vowed to force the release of his tax returns. Others have pledged to pursue impeachment, although removal from office is unlikely so long as Republicans control the Senate.
Democrats won nearly all of the seats they needed to claim House control with other competitive contests remaining. Victories in contested races across Florida, New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Minnesota gave them cause for optimism.
Trump sought to take credit for retaining the GOP’s Senate majority, even as the party’s foothold in the more competitive House battlefield appeared to be slipping.
“Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!” Trump tweeted.
History was working against the President in the Senate: 2002 was the only Midterm election in the past three decades when the party holding the White House gained Senate seats.
Nearly 40 per cent of voters cast their ballots to express opposition to the President, according to AP VoteCast, a national survey of the electorate, while one-in-four said they voted to express support for Trump.
Overall, 6 in 10 voters said the country was headed in the wrong direction, but roughly that same number described the national economy as excellent or good. Twenty-five per cent described healthcare and immigration as the most important issues in the election.
Nearly two-thirds said Trump was a reason for their vote.
Trump encouraged voters to view the first nationwide election of his presidency as a referendum on his leadership, pointing proudly to the surging economy at recent rallies.
He bet big on a xenophobic closing message, warning of an immigrant “invasion” that promised to spread violent crime and drugs across the nation. Several television networks, including the President’s favourite Fox News Channel, yanked a Trump campaign advertisement off the air on the eve of the election, determining that its portrayal of a murderous immigrant went too far.
One of Trump’s most vocal defenders on immigration, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, lost his bid for governor. Kobach had built a national profile as an advocate of tough immigration policies and strict voter photo ID laws. He served as vice-chairman of Trump’s nowdefunct commission on voter fraud.
Democrats, whose very relevance in the Trump era depended on winning at least one chamber of Congress, were laser-focused on healthcare as they predicted victories that would break up the GOP’s monopoly in Washington and state governments.
Yet Trump’s party will maintain Senate control for the next two years, at least.
In Texas, Senator Ted Cruz staved off a tough challenge from Democrat Beto O’Rourke, whose recordsmashing fundraising and celebrity have set off buzz he could be a credible 2020 White House contender.
In Indiana, Trump-backed businessman Mike Braun defeated Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly. In Missouri, Josh Hawley knocked off Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. And in Tennessee, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn defeated former Governor Phil Bredesen, a top Democratic recruit.
Democratic senators Joe Manchin in West Virginia and Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin won re-election. And in New Jersey, Democrats re-elected embattled Senator Bob Menendez, who, less than a year ago, stood trial for federal corruption charges. The Justice Department dropped the charges after his trial ended in an hung jury.
The races ushered in a series of firsts, with the House getting its first two Muslim women as well as its first Native American and gay woman with the victory of Kansas Democrat Sharice Davids.