WASHINGTON — A suburban revolt was how American media described the results of the US elections in which Democrats were poised to seize the House majority from President Donald Trump’s Republican Party that threatened what’s left of the President’s governing agenda. But the GOP (Grand Old Party) gained ground in the Senate and preserved key governorships, beating back a “blue wave” that never fully materialized.
The mixed verdict in the first nationwide election of Trump’s young presidency underscored the limits of his hardline immigration rhetoric in America’s evolving political landscape where college-educated voters in the nation’s suburbs rejected his warnings of a migrant “invasion” while blue-collar voters and rural America embraced them.
Still, the new Democratic House majority ends the Republican Party’s dominance in Washington for the final two years of Trump’s first term with major questions looming about health care, immigration and government spending. The President’s party will maintain control of the executive and judicial branches of US government, in addition to the Senate, but Democrats suddenly have a foothold that gives them subpoena power to probe deep into Trump’s personal and professional missteps — and his long-withheld tax returns.
New day dawns
“Tomorrow will be a new day in America,” declared House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi who would be in line to become the next Speaker.
There were signs of extraordinary turnout in several states, including Georgia, where voters waited hours in the rain to vote in some cases and in Nevada, where the last voters cast their ballots nearly three hours after polls were scheduled to close.
The Democrats picked up the 23 seats they had to wrest from the GOP but were still short of the 218 total for a House majority with more races to be decided.
Women were assured of 85 seats in the House, a record.
The road to a House majority ran through two dozen suburban districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Democrats flipped seats in suburban districts outside of Washington, Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago and Denver.
The results were more mixed deeper into Trump country.
In Kansas, Democrat Sharice Davids beat a GOP incumbent to become the first Native American and gay woman elected to the House. But in Kentucky, one of the top Democratic recruits, retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, lost her bid to oust three-term Rep. Andy Barr.
Eight Filipino-Americans are seeking US Congress seats who are: Cristina Osmeña, 14th District (California); Christina Laskowski, 22nd District (California); Gina Ortiz Jones, 23rd District (Texas); Bobby Scott, 3rd District (Virginia); TJ Cox, 21st District (California); Jennifer Mejares Zimmerman, 1st District (Florida) and Rob Bonta, 18th District (California).
GOP retains Senate
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 mid-term election in the past three decades when the party holding the White House gained Senate seats.
Democrats’ dreams of the Senate majority, which was always unlikely, 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.
“I want to encourage you to stick to the fight,” said Gillum who was thought to be a rising star with national ambitions.
Referendum on Trump
Trump encouraged voters to view the 2018 mid-terms as a referendum on his leadership, pointing proudly to the surging economy at recent rallies.
Nearly 40 percent of voters cast their ballots to express opposition to the President, according to AP VoteCast, the national survey of the electorate, while one-in-four said they voted to express support for Trump.
Overall, six 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 percent described health care and immigration as the most important issues in the election.
Nearly two-thirds said Trump was a reason for their vote.
The President 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 favorite 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.
Trump ally falls
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 now-defunct commission on voter fraud.
The President found partial success despite his current job approval, set at 40 percent by Gallup, the lowest at this point of any first-term president in the modern era. Both Barack Obama’s and Bill Clinton’s numbers were five points higher and both suffered major mid-term losses of 63 and 54 House seats, respectively.
Democrats, whose very relevance in the Trump era depended on winning at least one chamber of Congress, were laser-focused on health care as they poured hundreds of millions of dollars onto surging anti-Trump energy to break up the GOP’s monopoly in Washington and state governments.
While Democratic losses were expected, particularly in the Senate, some hurt worse than others.
In Texas, Sen. Ted Cruz staved off a tough challenge from Democrat Beto O’Rourke, whose record-smashing fundraising and celebrity have set off buzz he could be a credible 2020 White House contender.
Democrats’ fate in high-profile governorships in Georgia and Wisconsin were at risk as well.