Analysis: Breaking down the results of the 2018 Congressional midterms

Jacob WassermanCourtesy of Jacob Wasserman
Jacob Wasserman.

BY
Senior Reporter

After several months of fervent campaigning, the 2018 midterm elections are finally in the rear-view mirror.

Political pundits of all types have been evaluating whether or not the results qualify these elections as a much-hyped national Democratic “wave,” but one thing is certain — these midterms did produce a blue wave in Delaware.

Democrats won every single statewide election in the First State this year, flipping the offices of the state treasurer and the state auditor of accounts. Democrats also won re-election for U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative and state Attorney General. The other Senate seat is also held by a Democrat, Sen. Chris Coons, as is the Governor’s Mansion.

Colleen Davis’ victory over incumbent treasurer Ken Simpler certainly turned many heads based on Simpler’s fervent advertising campaign, his incumbent status and the fact that he is a frequently mentioned possible Republican challenger to Democratic Gov. John Carney in 2020.

Democrats also did very well in the state legislature.

One of the closest-watched elections was between public school teacher and Democratic first-time candidate Laura Sturgeon and Republican Senate Minority Whip Greg Lavelle for Senate District 4. Sturgeon emerged victorious on election night, adding to what was already a successful night for the Delaware Democrats, whose majorities in the state senate and state house increased. Following Tuesday’s elections, Democrats have solidified their control on the state’s politics for years to come.

The national political scene is a bit less certain. Even though 11 Congressional races and three Senate races are yet to have been officially decided, the federal government will be divided in terms of party control. The Senate will have a Republican majority, the Democrats will control the House of Representatives and, of course, President Donald Trump is a Republican.

Almost all pollsters projected that the Democrats would retake the majority in the House of Representatives. There was not as much of a consensus on the margin.

As of Nov. 12, the Democrats have gained 32 seats, which is eight more than they needed to retake the majority. That margin is likely to grow, as they are likely to pick up at least some, if not most, of the 11 yet-to-be-called races.

The 116th Congress is also set to be the most diverse in American history. The first Native American (Debra Haaland and Sharice Davids) and Muslim (Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib) Congresswomen ever will be taking office this January, as will the youngest-ever Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Additionally, Ayanna Pressley will be the first African American woman to represent Massachusetts in the House, and Joe Neguse will be the first African American to represent Colorado in the lower chamber.

The elections for the U.S. Senate saw successes for both parties.

The Republicans managed to flip three previously Democratic seats: Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota. All three outgoing Democrats — Sens. Joe Donnelly, Claire McCaskill and Heidi Heitkamp, respectively — were rather moderate on the political spectrum, while the three new Senators-elect — Mike Braun, Josh Hawley and Kevin Cramer — all closely aligned themselves with Trump. Trump carried all three states in 2016 by large margins, so the explanation behind all three elections is quite apparent.

As of Nov. 12, the Democrats have officially flipped two seats: Nevada and Arizona. Rep. Jackie Rosen has defeated incumbent Sen. Dean Heller for his seat. Also, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema has defeated Rep. Martha McSally for retiring Sen. Jeff Flake’s Arizona seat.

Another race to not yet be decided is the Mississippi seat of former Sen. Thad Cochran who had to step down mid-term for health reasons. The race will be going to a runoff between appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican, and former Rep. and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy, a Democrat. On Election Day, the Republican vote was split between Hyde-Smith and state Sen. Chris McDaniel, preventing Hyde-Smith, the clear frontrunner, from achieving a simple majority. Since she will be the only Republican running in the Nov. 27 runoff, Hyde-Smith is expected to win.

Perhaps the most hotly contested Senate seat, which may not be officially decided for weeks, is down in Florida. That election pitted incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson against outgoing Gov. Rick Scott. On Election Night, it looked like Scott would pull away with the win, but as ballots have continued to be counted, Nelson’s vote total has inched up to the point where he is within a half percentage point of Scott, triggering a mandatory recount.

Both sides have brought in the best available lawyers and have been shooting accusations at the other side, but it can take weeks before all ballots are counted initially, and then all ballots are recounted, as mandated by state law.

With the victories of Rosen and Sinema, plus a Scott win in Florida, the Senate’s breakdown for the 116th Congress to 53-47 in favor of the Republicans. If Nelson were to emerge victorious after the recount, it would be 52-48, which is, interestingly, the exact breakdown of the chamber following the 2016 elections. That also would have been the breakdown heading into these 2018 elections, if Roy Moore’s sexual misconduct hadn’t opened the door for now-Sen. Doug Jones to win the special election in Ala. to replace recently fired former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

It would be nothing short of fascinating for the Senate to be broken down in the same way as it was after the 2016 elections, given all that has happened since then. Whether there are 52 or 53 Republican senators in this Congress, the control of the chamber will be very much in play in 2020, just adding to what will surely already be presidential-year chaos.

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