Democrats Poised to Take House Control as GOP Holds On to Senate
Democrats are poised to reclaim the U.S. House, riding a wave of voter anger and discontent with President Donald Trump to a victory that would dramatically alter his next two years in office and make a deeply divided nation even more difficult to govern.
Republicans, meanwhile, retained control of the Senate after GOP candidates unseated incumbent Democrats in Indiana and North Dakota and won an open seat in Tennessee. Democrats scored early wins Tuesday in their quest to wrest control of the House from the GOP, including in Virginia, Florida, Colorado and Kansas. Republicans did hold on in some tossup races where they faced strong challengers, as initial returns were tallied in the first midterm election of Donald Trump’s presidency. Republicans entered Tuesday with strong prospects of keeping their Senate majority, but the victory by GOP challenger Mike Braun over Senator Joe Donnelly in Indiana and Republican Marsha Blackburn’s win in Tennessee cut off any small chance Democrats had to make gains. In one of the most closely watched races, incumbent Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz fended off a well-funded, long-shot bid by Democrat Beto O’Rourke. Democrats Joe Manchin in West Virginia and Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin won their Senate re-election bids. In Florida’s Senate race, Democrat Bill Nelson was in a tight contest with Republican Rick Scott, the state’s governor. Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey beat Republican challenger Bob Hugin to win a third term. The incumbent was reprimanded by a Senate ethics panel after corruption charges were dismissed following a mistrial, turning what should have been a sure bet for Democrats into a close fight. In one of the first key House races to be called, Democrat Jennifer Wexton scored a victory for her party by defeating incumbent GOP Representative Barbara Comstock in a suburban Virginia district that was considered a bellwether by both parties. But in some other tossup races, the GOP managed to hold on. Republican incumbent Andy Barr fended off a strong challenge from Democrat Amy McGrath, a Naval Academy graduate and the first female Marine to pilot an F/A-18 Hornet in combat, in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District. Still, she was within striking distance in a Lexington-area district Trump won by 15 percentage points in 2016. In Virginia’s 7th District, a Republican-leaning area near Richmond, Republican Representative Dave Brat was in a tight race with Democrat Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer. Democrats picked off two Republican House seats in Florida, including one held by Representative Carlos Curbelo. He was defeated by Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. The race was considered a toss-up. "This was a difficult campaign," Curbelo told reporters in Miami. "This country, our politics are in a very bad place." In Florida’s 27th District, former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala won the seat left open by the retirement of Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a popular moderate Republican. Those House races, along with several others in states where polls had closed, were being watched for insights into whether Trump can push forward with his agenda unimpeded or find himself restrained by a Democratic-controlled House. Democrats continued to express confidence that they will win the House. “When Democrats win -- and we will win tonight -- we will have a Congress that is open, transparent,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who would like to become the next speaker, told an audience Tuesday evening in Washington. Trump’s polarizing impact on the country has driven unusually high interest in the election, the first major political test of his presidency and one that will provide Democrats with clues to the strategy they’ll need to challenge him in 2020. The flood of political donations from interest groups and individuals will make it the most expensive midterm ever, and early signs suggest voter turnout could be the highest in half a century. While the occupant of the White House is typically central to midterm elections, Trump has worked especially hard to make this one about him. Voters agree. Two-thirds of those casting ballots said their vote was about Trump, according to preliminary exit polls posted by CNN. Also, more said they showed up at the polls to express opposition than did those who said they were casting a ballot to support him. “As president, Donald J. Trump has headlined an unprecedented 50 rallies -- 30 in the last two months alone -- and he has campaigned for dozens of candidates at all levels of government,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement Tuesday evening. “The president has energized a staggering number of Americans at packed arenas and in overflow crowds at rallies across the country.” Preliminary exit poll results reported by ABC News showed that 18- to 29-year-olds accounted for 13 percent of voters nationally, up from 11 percent in 2014. About 15 percent said that this was the first time they’d voted in a midterm, according to CNN, compared to about 10 percent who said they were first-time voters in the 2016 election. That could help Democrats because younger voters tend to lean their way. After a hectic week of campaigning, Trump spent Tuesday at the White House awaiting exit polls and final results. He was active on Twitter throughout much of the day, blasting out endorsements for Republican candidates and weighing in on the balloting.