The GOP holds the Senate as Trump allies win in Indiana, Tennessee and North Dakota.
Democrats hope voters upset with Trump flock to polls
Republicans cemented control of the Senate for two more years Tuesday and positioned themselves for a more conservative majority, with victories by candidates who aligned closely with President Donald Trump.
North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer and Indiana businessman Mike Braun, both staunch Trump allies, won seats held by Democrats. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican and another Trump loyalist, defeated a popular former governor in Tennessee.
The results held implications for coming battles over the federal judiciary, trade, health care, government spending and immigration. Trump’s worldview is expected to be reflected strongly in those debates in the wake of Tuesday’s elections.
The outcomes also held significance for Trump himself. His administration could face an onslaught of investigations beginning next year, as Democrats closed in on a takeover in the House. Some Democrats have even raised the possibility of impeachment.
With the map in their favor, Republicans — who currently control both chambers of Congress — were on track to preserve and expand their 51-49 advantage in the Senate. Analysts across the political spectrum had favored them to remain in power, even as they said Democrats were likely to wrest control of the House.
“I see two things,” said Jim Manley, a former top Democratic Senate aide, looking ahead. “A president unwilling to tone down his rhetoric, along with the Senate Republicans unwilling to break with him.”
Even before Tuesday’s vote, Senate Republicans were poised for a more pro-Trump roster next year. Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who have frequently voiced concerns about Trump’s tone and his governing philosophy, are retiring. John McCain, a vocal Trump critic, died in August.
Democrats tried to defeat candidates who marched in lockstep with Trump by running on preserving health-care protections and other so-called “kitchen table” issues. In key races, they fell short.
Senate Democrats were defending 26 of the 35 seats on the ballot, including 10 in states Trump won. They were hoping to offset their losses with some gains.
Many Democratic Senate contenders railed against Trump’s tariffs during the campaign. In Tennessee, former governor Phil Bredesen, who lost, cast the tariffs as harmful to the state’s automobile, farming and whiskey industries.
The Senate Republican agenda is not expected to be nearly as ambitious as the past two years, when the GOP controlled the federal government following Trump’s surprise win. A Democratic House takeover would likely be a major impediment to reaching an agreement on most big issues, should Republicans retain the Senate.
Even in that scenario, the Senate will still have to navigate some high-stakes battles. The Trump administration is preparing for a massive, post-midterm shakeup, which could trigger nominations for attorney general and other cabinet posts the Senate would be tasked with confirming in the months ahead.
A looming debate over health care and the outcome of Republican lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act could prompt further consideration of tweaks to the law. Immigration, which Trump and the Republicans made a centerpiece of their midterm pitch, could spark a new debate about border security funding.
Congress will also have to approve or reject a sweeping trade deal Trump spearheaded with Mexico and Canada. More basic tasks like funding the federal government could be further complicated by an ideological shift.