Blue Wave Crashes: Democrats’ Hopes For Senate Majority Fizzle; House Margin Eroded

What ‘Blue Wave’?

While 9 states are still waiting on final vote counts in the presidential race, it’s already clear that Tuesday was not the blowout Democratic victory that Nate Silver and a legion of other idiot pundits had expected.

Joni Ernst

Despite the legion of celebrities and models urging their followers to ‘get out and vote’ by posting selfies with their ‘I voted’ stickers and/or (in one notorious campaign) posing nude for risque adverts (oh to have been a fly on the wall during that pitch meeting), all the ‘vote now’ merch in the world couldn’t deliver the Senate Majority that Wall Street had pinned its hopes of a sweeping stimulus deal upon.

To be sure, the Dems managed to flip a couple of high-profile seats; but the majority of “threatened” Republican Senators (and remember, there were a lot of them) managed to fend off deep-pocketed Democratic rivals.

Here’s a roundup of where things stand as of Wednesday morning in New York (courtesy of the NYT & Bloomberg):

  • Democratic Senate candidates were running slightly behind Biden in several states, making it difficult for the party to retake Senate control.
  • Republicans flipped one seat: Tommy Tuberville beat the Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama. Gary Peters, the Democratic incumbent in Michigan, is locked in a close race with his Republican challenger, John James; it will depend on the outstanding votes.
  • Democrats flipped two seats: John Hickenlooper defeated Gardner in Colorado, and Mark Kelly defeated McSally in Arizona.
  • In Iowa, Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican, won re-election. Republicans also won races in Montana, South Carolina — where Lindsey Graham held on to his seat — and Texas.
  • John Cornyn defeated Air Force combat veteran MJ Hegar. Republican Roger Marshall won the open Kansas Senate seat, defeating a well-funded Barbara Bollier in a race Democrats had hopes of winning if there was a wave election.
  • Georgia Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed by the governor, will face off against Democrat Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, in the runoff. In the other Georgia contest, Republican incumbent David Perdue was leading Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, who narrowly lost an Atlanta-area House special election in 2017.
  • Democratic Senator Mark Warner was easily re-elected to a third term in Virginia and Republican Shelley Moore Capito won a second term in West Virginia, according to Associated Press projections. Incumbent Democrats Edward Markey in Massachusetts, Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, Jack Reed in Rhode Island, Chris Coons in Delaware and Dick Durbin in Illinois also won re-election.
  • Along With McConnell and Capito, Republican James Inhofe won re-election in Oklahoma. In Tennessee, Republican Bill Hagerty won the seat being vacated by Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, who is retiring. South Dakota Republican Mike Rounds and Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse also were re-elected. In Wyoming, Republican Cynthia Lummis won election to the seat now held by Mike Enzi, who is retiring.
  • Several other races remain too close to call, including in Maine, where Senator Susan Collins leads the Democratic nominee, Sara Gideon. In a special Senate election in Georgia, the incumbent Kelly Loeffler is headed to a January runoff against the Democrat Raphael Warnock.

As we await the final results, President Trump has a much stronger chance of winning a second term than any of the ‘professionals’ anticipated, and although Twitter and Facebook affixed labels to some of his spicier tweets last night (including one accusing Democrats of trying to “steal” the election), the chaos that many had feared has given way to an eerie silence.

At this point, “virtually everything has to go right” for the Dems to take the Senate, said one veteran analyst with the Cook Political Report tweeted.

The two big tossup Senate races that have yet to be called involve Susan Collins (of Maine) and Thom Tillis (of North Carolina), both of whom were holding on to leads in vote counts. Both would need to lose to deliver the four seats that Dems would need to take an outright majority (rather than a 50-50 tie with the VP casting the deciding vote).

When President Trump said during rallies in recent weeks that he expected the GOP to take back the House, professional analysts sniggered. However, they failed to anticipate even the possibility that the GOP could expand its caucus. The Senate races “closely mirrored” the race at the top of the ticket, with few voters splitting ballots, as President Trump helped carry some embattled senators, including Lindsey Graham, over the line.

But as bad as the situation is for the Senate, Democrats’ performance in various tossup House races was even more abysmal. Though the Dems are expected to hold on to their majority, the GOP is expected to take more than 200 seats, leaving them with an emboldened minority. Pollsters had expected Dems to pick up more than a dozen seats; it’s just the latest reminder of how far off the public opinion polls were in the runup to the election.

Politico’s Jake Sherman put it best in a string of tweets where he labeled Tuesday “an abject disaster” for Democrats.

Bottom line: Republicans are headed for a net gain of around ten seats. Even members of Nancy Pelosi’s leadership team are having a hard time hanging on to their seats. When the dust settles, the speaker is going to have some explaining to do. Maybe it’s time for the Dems to put the 80-year-old Speaker out to pasture?