Months of speculation and rumination collided with reality on Tuesday as Democrats secured a long-sought majority in the House while Republicans tightened their grip on the Senate.
Election Day did not unfold exactly as either party had hoped. Democrats failed to hold on to several key Senate seats, while Republicans were ultimately unable to keep their losses in the House below the 23-seat threshold that Democrats needed to win the chamber.
But there were bright spots for the parties, as well. Democrats made gains in many of the suburban districts they had sought to pick up, while Republicans consolidated their support in deep-red states, like North Dakota and Indiana.
Here are five takeaways from the election night.
Florida falls short of Democrats’ expectations
Election Day in Florida wasn’t all that Democrats had hoped for.
As voters headed to the polls on Tuesday, party strategists and officials were bullish, not just on their chances in several key House races, but in their prospects of retaking the governor’s mansion for the first time in two decades.
But as the vote count came in, their expectations went unmet. Andrew Gillum, the progressive mayor of Tallahassee whose gubernatorial bid had captured the hearts of Democrats, ultimately conceded to Republican Ron DeSantis. He trailed by only one point.
Likewise, in Florida’s ultra-competitive Senate race, Republican Gov. Rick Scott appeared to be headed for a narrow win over incumbent Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonNASA, SpaceX and the private-public partnership that caused the flight of the Crew Dragon Lobbying world The most expensive congressional races of the last decade MORE (D-Fla.), bringing a close to the three-term Democrat’s Senate career.
Florida offered good news for Democrats as well. The party’s nominee in Florida’s 27th District, Donna Shalala, won her race to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-LehtinenIleana Carmen Ros-LehtinenTechNet hires Hispanic communications director Bottom line Women are refusing to take the backseat in politics, especially Latinas MORE. And Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell edged out Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloTrump, GOP go all-in on anti-China strategy Republicans can’t exploit the left’s climate extremism without a better idea Progressive Latino group launches first incumbent protection campaign MORE (R-Fla.) from his South Florida seat.
But another toss-up race in the state’s 15th District went to Republican Ross Spano. Meanwhile, the GOP candidates beat back challenges in three other districts that Democrats had once seen as competitive, frustrating the party’s hopes for a blue wave in the Sunshine State.
Democrats make gains in suburbs
When Democrats set out to reclaim a House majority, they knew their path would take them through suburban districts in states like Virginia, Pennsylvania and Minnesota.
On Tuesday, they laid claim to such districts.
One of the first major gains for the party came in Northern Virginia, where Democrat Jennifer Wexton ousted Rep. Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockLive coverage: House holds third day of public impeachment hearings Gun debate raises stakes in battle for Virginia legislature Progressives face steep odds in ousting incumbent Democrats MORE (R) from the state’s 10th District, which includes the western suburbs of Washington, D.C.
Hours later, Virginia’s 7th District, which includes the Richmond suburbs and vast stretches of rural country, flipped for Democrat Abigail Spanberger.
Among the other suburban districts to go for Democrats on Tuesday were Florida’s 26th District, where Mucarsel-Powell edged out Curbelo, and Minnesota’s 3rd District, where Democrat Dean Phillips defeated Rep. Erik PaulsenErik Philip PaulsenPass USMCA Coalition drops stance on passing USMCA Two swing-district Democrats raise impeachment calls after whistleblower reports Hopes dim for passage of Trump trade deal MORE (R).
Democrats’ support in these suburban districts has largely been driven by dissatisfaction with President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE among moderates, women and college-educated voters. Those voters ended up being a key part of the party’s coalition on Tuesday.
Rockstar Democrats have a bad night
A handful of Democratic hopefuls barreled into the general election with seemingly larger-than-life profiles that captured valuable media attention and raised the hopes of their supporters.
But a number of them came up short on Election Day.
In Florida, Gillum, who had drawn comparisons to former President Obama and excited his party’s liberal base, conceded to DeSantis after it became clear that he could not make up the 1-point difference that separated them.
And in Texas, Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) fell to Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump’s public standing sags after Floyd protests GOP senators introduce resolution opposing calls to defund the police MORE (R), despite bringing in record-shattering fundraising hauls and developing a fanbase that stretched far beyond the borders of his state. He still managed to keep the race close, trailing his Republican opponent by only a couple hundred thousand votes.
The final results of the governor’s race in Georgia remain less clear. Hours after polls closed, the race remained uncalled, with Democrat Stacey Abrams trailing Republican Brian Kemp by 3 points in the vote tally. Her campaign said in the early hours of Wednesday morning that they expect a recount.
Virginia solidifies blue-state status
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) stormed to victory in Virginia’s 2017 governor’s race, which was the first major sign that Democrats could have a shot at regaining the House majority.
A year later, Virginia played a critical role in helping to deliver Democrats the lower chamber, while also solidifying the swing seat as a blue state.
Wexton cruised to victory over Comstock in the D.C. suburbs, which was viewed as a must-win for Democrats.
Northern Virginia has turned solidly blue thanks to anti-Trump backlash in the suburbs that started back in 2016 with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE’s double-digit win and continued with Northam’s romp in 2017.
Plus, Democrats had a good night by picking up GOP-leaning seats in Trump districts that further emphasized the party’s ability to expand the battlefield.
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Democrat Elaine Luria, a retired U.S. Navy commander, narrowly defeated Rep. Scott TaylorScott William TaylorAvenatti held in El Chapo’s old jail cell, lawyers say Vulnerable Democrats feel heat ahead of impeachment vote The Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by AdvaMed – Democrats to release articles of impeachment today MORE (R-Va.), while former CIA agent Spanberger eked out a win over Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.).
Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Senate panel passes amendment to bar using troops against protesters Defense bill turns into proxy battle over Floyd protests MORE (D-Va.) cruised to victory over Republican Corey Stewart, depriving Republicans of a strong top of the ticket contender that could have possibly given House members some coattail effects.
It was a good night for Senate Republicans
Senate Republicans had a good night even as historical headwinds cost their party the majority in the House.
As of early Wednesday morning Republicans had flipped Democrat-held seats in Missouri, Indiana and North Dakota. They also appeared to have toppled Nelson’s seat in Florida, though the senator’s campaign pushed back on reports that he had conceded the race.
The outcome will give Republicans at least 52 seats in January. They could easily expand their majority, despite losing Nevada, if they win the Mississippi runoff election on Nov. 27 or hold their seats in Arizona and Nevada or flip Montana, which had not been called as of 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
Republicans keeping their Senate majority will give Trump a firewall in Congress against emboldened House Democrats, who have pledged to be a thorn in the side of the administration if they won the House majority.
The red-state wins come after Trump barnstormed key races to back GOP candidates in the waning days of the midterm election.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote GOP senator to try to reverse requirement that Pentagon remove Confederate names from bases No, ‘blue states’ do not bail out ‘red states’ MORE (R-Ky.) took a victory lap even as some races remained uncalled, with his campaign account tweeting out a GIF of the GOP leader smiling.
McConnell and Trump spoke on Tuesday night amid the favorable election results, a spokesman for the Senate GOP leader confirmed, and McConnell thanked the president for his help in picking up seats.