The 2018 midterm elections proved to be neither the gargantuan “Blue Wave” some had predicted which would be a nationwide stunning repudiation of Trump, nor a Republican victory.
The House of Representatives
The Democrats did regain the House of Representatives, albeit by modest margins. Roughly a dozen seats are still outstanding, but preliminary results suggest the Democrats will hold roughly a 230 to 205 majority in the House. It is a clear victory for the Democrats, but it also means that just 13 seats would have to switch hands in the next election, for the Republicans to take back the House. Democrats capitalized on victories in suburban areas that are typically “purple”…that is to say, in between red and blue.
They fared particularly well in coastal areas.
In the Senate, Trump’s strategy of bolstering key Republican candidates appears to have paid dividends. The Republicans knocked off several candidates in red states that voted for Trump in 2016: Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Joe Donnelly in Indiana, and Bill Nelson in Florida (although that race is headed to a recount).
While the Democrats clearly enjoyed a “victory night”…they are no doubt smarting from those defeats as well. Their only pickup came in a hotly contested Nevada race where Dean Heller was defeated by Representative Jackie Rosen.
Meanwhile, Trump came up short in Montana where, despite persistent efforts to topple John Tester, the Republican candidate came short by 3 points.
There are still two outstanding Senate races: In Mississippi the Republicans are widely expected to win the runoff election there later this month. In Arizona, Martha McSally has a one point lead over Kyrsten Sinema, indicating a likely Republican hold. Political betting site PredictIt is currently giving McSally a 72% chance to keep this seat red.
Most likely, then, assuming the Republicans hold onto leads in Florida, Arizona, and Mississippi, we are looking at a 54-46 margin for Republicans in the Senate. It is modest, but it is enough to make it a daunting task for the Democrats to take it back next election cycle. It also bodes well for future Trump judicial picks.
The Republicans are thrilled to have fended off spirited challenges from Bernie Sanders-backed leftists in Florida and Georgia, as well as holding onto the governorship in Ohio. The Democrats did enjoy some key pickups in Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, and Nevada. All in all, it wasn’t a spectacular night for the Republicans, but it was hardly a disaster either.
What is to come over the next two years?
The “I word” is on everyone’s mind. Impeachment. Top Congressional Democrats have been hinting that it’s a likely possibility. Do they have the votes to do it? That remains to be seen. Probably such a measure would enjoy virtually no Republican support, so the Democrats could only stand to have about a dozen defections in the House.
In the Senate, it is almost certain that the Republicans would not confirm the impeachment, meaning that nothing would happen. 67 Senators need to confirm an impeachment in order to remove the president from office, which would put Pence in power to serve out the remainder of Trump’s term.
Will Democrats Overplay Their Hand?
On the one hand, 55% of voters in exit polls say they disapproved of Trump’s performance. On the other hand, polls show that a majority of Americans oppose impeachment.
The Democrats should take careful study of the last impeachment effort in the United States, which spectacularly backfired on the Republicans.
Despite Clinton’s perjury, in relation to his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, the American public felt that the Republicans’ impeachment effort amounted to a partisan witch-hunt, and made their voices known at the ballot box.
It is possible that the Democrats impeach Trump over the next two years: I’d give it 50/50 odds right now. But they should be careful if they do so, without a clear and undisputed “smoking gun” in the Russia investigation. If the impeachment proves unpopular with the American people, they may find themselves back in the Congressional minority in both chambers, enjoying 4 more years of Trump.