U.S. Democrats won a majority in the House of Representatives in Tuesday’s midterm elections, gaining power to investigate President Donald Trump and help shape the nation’s political agenda for the next two years.
With several races yet to be decided, it was clear that Democrats captured more than the 218 seats needed to break the Republicans’ eight-year hold on the lower house that began with the Tea Party revolt of 2010.
“Tomorrow will be a new day in America,” declared House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, now in line to become the next House speaker.
Pelosi discusses restoring checks and balances on the Trump administration:
While Republicans retained control of the Senate, the Democratic wins in the House ended their monopoly on power in Washington and opened a new era of divided government. However, the Republicans retained control of the Senate with several key victories.
Republican Mike Braun ousted Indiana Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, incumbent Ted Cruz held off challenger Beto O’Rourke in Texas and Marsha Blackburn defeated former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen to keep a hotly contested Senate in Republican hands — all important steps in the party’s drive to keep hold of the 100-seat upper chamber.
Blackburn promises Trump’s agenda will be advanced, wall built:
With divided leadership in Congress and a president who has taken an expansive view of executive power, Washington could be in store for even deeper political polarization and legislative gridlock.
The Democrats will now head House committees that can investigate the president’s tax returns, possible business conflicts of interest and possible links between his 2016 election campaign and Russia.
The Democrats also could force Trump to scale back his legislative ambitions, possibly dooming his promises to fund a border wall with Mexico, pass a second major tax-cut package, or carry out his hard-line policies on trade.
LIVE BLOG RECAP: U.S. midterm elections 2018, as they happened
Trump tame on Twitter
Trump, who spent election night watching returns with family and friends at the White House, had packed his closing campaign speeches with hard-line immigration rhetoric and harsh attacks on Democrats. He also tried out defensive arguments, preemptively noting that midterm losses are typical for the party in the White House, that there were many Republican retirements, and that he kept his focus on the Senate.
Late Tuesday, Trump tweeted an uncharacteristically short and concise message minutes after both the House and Senate projections were made.
On the campaign trail, Trump made only passing reference to his $1.5 trillion tax cut — the Republican Congress’ signature achievement — and instead barnstormed through mostly white regions of the country with dark and foreboding warnings. He predicted an “invasion” from the migrant caravan making its way toward the U.S. and decried the “radical” agenda of speaker-in-waiting Pelosi.
On Tuesday night, Trump called to congratulate the California lawmaker and acknowledged her plea for bipartisanship, according to her spokesperson.
Losing the House will test Trump’s ability to compromise, something he has shown little interest in over the last two years with Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress. There may, however, be some room to work with Democrats on issues with bipartisan support such as an infrastructure improvement package or protections against prescription drug price increases.
In locking down a majority, Democratic candidates flipped seats in several suburban districts outside Washington, Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago, Denver and Dallas that were considered prime targets for turnover because they were won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. The Democrats made only slight inroads in Trump country, where they tried to win back white working-class voters.
Midterm elections are typically difficult for the party in power, but the Republicans’ hold on power was further weakened by an unusually large number of retirements, as well as infighting between conservatives and centrists over their allegiance to Trump.
The Democrats, in turn, benefited from extraordinary voter enthusiasm, robust fundraising and unusually fresh candidates. More women than ever were running, along with veterans and minorities, many of them motivated by revulsion over Trump.
At 29, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. She shocked many, including herself, last spring when she came out of nowhere to defeat 10-term Rep. Joe Crowley in New York’s Democratic congressional primary.
The victory made her the national face of young, discontented Democrats — often women and minorities — trying to shove their party to the left.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls Democrats’ House gains “a movement”:
In Virginia, political newcomer Jennifer Wexton defeated two-term Rep. Barbara Comstock. The Republican incumbent had been branded Barbara “Trumpstock” by Democrats in a race that pointed to Trump’s unpopularity among college-educated women in the suburbs.
In south Florida, former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala defeated Republican Maria Elvira Salazar.
But Democrats failed to defeat a vulnerable incumbent in Kentucky, where Republican Rep. Andy Barr won over former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath. On the Senate side, they also failed to fend off Braun in Indiana.
Democrat Tony Evers defeated Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, denying the polarizing Republican and one-time presidential candidate a third term.
Evers’ win on Tuesday was a huge victory for Democrats, who couldn’t find the recipe to take out Walker in three previous elections, including a 2012 recall.
Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts easily won re-election as they consider bids for the Democratic presidential nomination. Other 2020 prospects on the ballot included New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who both held onto their seats, too.
Sen. Bernie Sanders says Trump continues to divide the country:
In Georgia, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams wouldn’t concede the tight race against Republican Brian Kemp. “You’re going to have a chance to have a do-over,” Abrams said, hinting at a runoff.
In the hours after the first polls closed Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders downplayed the possibility of a Democratic rout, saying “maybe you get a ripple, but I certainly don’t think that there’s a blue wave.”
Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks to reporters, playing down the possibility of a big Democratic win:
Sanders said Trump called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “to congratulate him on historic Senate gains” and also called Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Referendum on leadership
Tuesday’s elections were the first opportunity for Americans to have a say about Trump’s presidency. Trump encouraged voters to see it as a referendum on his leadership, pointing proudly to the surging economy at recent rallies.
Health care and immigration were high on voters’ minds as they cast ballots, according to a wide-ranging survey of the American electorate conducted by The Associated Press.
AP VoteCast also shows a majority of voters considered Trump a factor in their votes.
A majority of the 113,000 voters surveyed said the country is headed in the wrong direction.
Both parties reported strong voter turnout, but problems that arose during early voting carried into Election Day as some voters across the country faced hours-long lines, malfunctioning voting equipment and unexpectedly closed polling places.
One voter in Gwinnett County, Ga., Ontaria Woods, waited more than three hours and said she saw about two dozen people who had come to vote leave because of the lines.
“We’ve been trying to tell them to wait, but people have children,” Woods said. “People are getting hungry. People are tired.”