The Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives in the American mid-term elections but their anticipated ‘blue wave’ of support broke short of the Senate, where Republicans maintained control.
As the final ballots were counted early Wednesday, Democrats were projected to take 238 seats in the House, easily topping the 218 needed for a majority and having flipped 26 targets along the way.
But in the Senate it was a different story. With only a third of the 100 seats up for election, Republicans were predicted to increase their current 51-seat majority to 54, with the Democrats on 46.
There were also 36 of 50 governor’s seats up for election on Tuesday, with the picture equally mixed. Some top Democrat targets such as Florida and Maryland fell to Republicans, but they chalked up wins in Michigan, Kansas and Illinois. In Georgia, Democrat hopeful Stacey Abrams was refusing to concede on Wednesday morning.
Trump called the night a ‘tremendous success’ on Twitter and praised himself as ‘magic’ for gaining seats in the Senate, because the incumbent party typically loses ground in the mid-terms.
But the reality is far more mixed, because Democrats will now use their House majority to frustrate his agenda for the remaining two years of his term.
Gaining the House also means the Democrats gain control of committees which they could now use to launch investigations into Trump, including subpoenaing tax records he refused to release during the 2016 election.
The Democrats are on course to win 238 seats in the House following the mid-term elections on Tuesday, though the figure falls short of the upper limit of 245 that they hoped to win
Republicans clung on to power in the Senate after the Democrats were defeated in key battleground states of Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas and North Dakota
Nancy Pelosi, who could return as Democrat House Speaker after last night’s result, proclaimed victory and said the party would work to impose Constitutional checks and balances on Donald Trump
President Trump also proclaimed victory on Wednesday morning after a whirlwind tour of rallies held in key Senate battleground states appeared to swing voters in favour of the Republicans
Trump called the night a ‘tremendous success’ for Republicans on Twitter because the incumbent party typically loses seats during the mid-terms, while he managed to record gains
The President also praised himself as a ‘magic man’, quoting from TV news reports that said the Republicans were ‘lucky’ to have him as their leader
Despite the gains, the night failed to live up to Democrat expectations with the party failing to gain the maximum number of seats they were projected in the House and losing key governor races.
Andrew Gillum fell just short of becoming the first black governor of Florida, while in Georgia Stacey Abrams – who would become America’s first female black governor – was refusing to concede amid a tight contest.
They fared better in Wisconsin, where Republican incumbent and former presidential hopeful Scott Walker – who was gunning for a third term – was toppled by Democrat Tony Evers.
But in Ohio, the governor’s mansion belonged to Republican Mike DeWine who defeated Richard Cordray.
Taylor Swift’s intervention also flopped as Marsha Blackburn won the Senate in Tennessee by 11 points over Democrat candidate Phil Bredesen, who the singer backed.
While the Democrats’ grass-roots organisation allowed them to seize the House, Trump’s showmanship and personality thwarted them in key Senate battleground states of Indiana, Missouri, and Tennessee – where he held rallies in the closing days of the election.
One of the most bitter defeats for the Democrats came in Texas, where rising star Beto O’Rourke was defeated by incumbent Ted Cruz – a onetime foe of Trump who has since warmed to him – though the contest was closer than anticipated.
In Arizona, Republican Martha McSally looked set to triumph over Kyrsten Sinema as counting stopped early on Wednesday, though the result might not be announced until later in the week.
The seat was left vacant after Jeff Flake, a Republican critic of Trump, announced he was retiring from politics.
Clare McCaskill, a moderate Democrat senator for Missouri, was handed a thumping defeat on Tuesday by Josh Hawley, a Republican who has allied himself to Trump, who won by more than 10 percentage points.
One key Senate battleground was Texas, which had been widely seen as a safe seat for Republican Ted Cruz (pictured) until Beto O’Rourke emerged from obscurity to take him on
Ultimately Beto (pictured alongside wife Amy Sanders) fell short of victory, though many have pegged him as a rising star within the Democrat part
Ted Cruz supporter Marie Rice sheds tears of joy as Cruz declares victory at their election night headquarters
As the dust settled on Wednesday, Democrats standing ready to return next year as chairmen of House Oversight and Judiciary Committees were sharpening their pens and preparing to drag Trump through his own swamp.
‘We probably will’ seek Trump’s tax returns, said Reps. Elijah Cummings and Jerrold Nadler.
As Tuesday headed to Wednesday, presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway told reporters at the White House: ‘I guess they could try.’
‘I don’t know that there will be much of an appetite … for their members to be spending all of their time, or even most of their time, or a fraction of their time investigating, instigating, trying to impeach or subpoena people,’ Conway said.
Nadler said it was ‘way too early’ to talk about impeaching Trump, but wouldn’t rule it out depending on the results of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s expansive Russia probe.
‘He’s going to learn that he’s not above the law,’ he said, according to CNN.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters that ‘the president’s agenda isn’t going to change regardless of whose party is there.’
Democrats will also find themselves empowered to launch probes into voting-rights matters and questions about whether Trump has violated the Constitution’s ‘Emoluments Clause’ that prohibits presidents from receiving income from foreign governments.
Security clearances in the Trump White House could also come under close examination, along with prescription drug prices, family separations along the U.S.-Mexico border, gun control and insurance coverage for Americans with pre-existing medical conditions.
In Florida, Trump’s adopted home state, Ron DeSantis won the race to become state governor, defeating rival Andrew Gillum
Gillum said he regretting not being able to ‘bring it home’ in Florida after he lost the election with 49 per cent to 50 per cent
Republican Marsha Blackburn (left) claimed victory in Tennessee despite an unexpected intervention by pop princess Taylor Swift (right), who urged people to vote for her Democrat rival Phil Bredesen
Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin who ran for President against Trump in 2016 (pictured), lost his race against Democrat Tony Evers
As results rolled in from around the country, the Democrats made gains in suburban areas outside of Washington, Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago and Denver that fell to Trump in 2016.
But Trump tightened his grip on support in rural areas and among blue-collar workers. In Kentucky, one of the top Democratic recruits, retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, lost her bid to oust to three-term Rep. Andy Barr.
History was working against the president in the Senate: 2002 was the only midterm election in the past three decades when the party holding the White House gained Senate seats.
As the news broke that the Republicans had achieved just that, Trump began retweeting quotes from later night news bulletins praising himself as a ‘magic man’.
Whether voters opposed or supported him, Trump certainly electrified the mid-term contest, which has been a lackluster event under previous administrations with voter turnout struggling to hit 40 per cent.
High turnouts were recorded across the nation on Tuesday following record spending on advertising. Two thirds of those who voted said that Trump was the reason they cast their ballot, either to support or oppose him.
Overall, 6 in 10 voters said the country was headed in the wrong direction, but roughly that same number described the national economy as excellent or good.
Twenty-five percent described health care and immigration as the most important issues in the election.
Claire McCaskill (left), the incumbent Democrat in Missouri, lost her Senate seat to Republican challenger Josh Hawley, who attacked her for refusing to nominate Trump’s two Supreme Court picks
Stacey Abrams, who was bidding to become the first female African American governor in American history, has refused to concede a closely-fought contest in Georgia
Abrams’s supporters cheer after learning she was making up ground on opponent Brian Kemp, though the election was still too close to call on Wednesday morning
The night was a record-breaker for women, who now hold more seats in the House than at any point in history. Among them is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 29-year-old Democrat who has come to embody what Trump brands the ‘far left’
Trump encouraged voters to view the first nationwide election of his presidency as a referendum on his leadership, pointing proudly to the surging economy at recent rallies.
He bet big on a xenophobic closing message, warning of an immigrant ‘invasion’ that promised to spread violent crime and drugs across the nation. Several television networks, including the president’s favorite Fox News Channel, yanked a Trump campaign advertisement off the air on the eve of the election, determining that its portrayal of a murderous immigrant went too far.
One of Trump’s most vocal defenders on immigration, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, lost his bid for governor. Kobach had built a national profile as an advocate of tough immigration policies and strict voter photo ID laws. He served as vice chairman of Trump’s now-defunct commission on voter fraud.
The president’s current job approval, set at 40 percent by Gallup, was the lowest at this point of any first-term president in the modern era. Both Barack Obama’s and Bill Clinton’s numbers were 5 points higher, and both suffered major midterm losses of 63 and 54 House seats respectively.
Democrats, whose very relevance in the Trump era depended on winning at least one chamber of Congress, were laser-focused on health care as they predicted victories that would break up the GOP’s monopoly in Washington and state governments.
Yet Trump’s party will maintain Senate control for the next two years, at least.
In Texas, Sen Ted Cruz staved off a tough challenge from Democrat Beto O’Rourke, whose record-smashing fundraising and celebrity have set off buzz he could be a credible 2020 White House contender.
In Indiana, Trump-backed businessman Mike Braun defeated Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly. In Missouri, Josh Hawley knocked off Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. And in Tennessee, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn defeated former Gov. Phil Bredesen, a top Democratic recruit.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said that Trump has no plans to alter his political agenda despite losing the House to the Democrats
Democrat voters in Georgia learn that Stacey Abrams is trailing her Republican opponent, though she has refused to concede
Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, cheers as she declares victory in the governor’s race in Detroit, Michigan, one of the areas which was key to Trump’s victory in 2016
A Democrat supporter puts her head in her hands as she learns that Republicans are projected to hold the Senate
What are the mid-terms and why do they matter?
Mid-term elections come mid-way through a President’s term in office, and typically serve as a referendum on their work so far while shaping how the rest of their term will play out.
The office of President is not on the ballot paper, however, and voters are instead asked to pick candidates for the two houses of government – the House and Senate – and state governor, who acts like a lesser President for their own state.
In the November 2018 mid-terms, all 435 seats in the House and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate were up for election, along with 36 out of 50 state governors.
The Republicans held majorities in both houses before the election, allowing them to pass legislation, nominate judges, and appoint members of Trump’s cabinet largely unimpeded.
The Democrats were hoping to win back control of both houses in a so-called ‘blue wave’ that would have left Trump a lame duck and made it extremely difficult for him to get anything done in his last two years.
Supporters of Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who was running for the Senate in Texas, wait to hear the result. He ultimately lost the race to incumbent Republican Ted Cruz
As it happened, a divided nation produced a divided result, with Democrats winning back control of the House but Republicans increasing their majority in the Senate.
For Trump, that means the business of governing will become more difficult, with Democrats vowing to frustrate his populist political agenda.
Democrats also gained control of several powerful House committees and have promised to use them to investigate Trump, including a potential subpoena of his tax records.
But any hopes of impeachment, which was whispered about in Democrat circles during the campaign, are firmly off the table since the Senate would be required to find Trump guilty of an impeachable offence – which Republicans will not do.
Good showings for candidates who closely aligned themselves with Trump and his views will also help to quieten his opponents within his own party, and having Democrats in the House could provide a useful scapegoat for failed policies.
While state governors cannot affect Trump’s national agenda in the same way that representatives or senators can, he will rely on them to help enact his policies at a local level – and in these races, the picture was equally mixed.
Two Democrat hopefuls – Andrew Gillum in Florida and Stacey Abrams in Georgia – looked to have fallen short, though Abrams was refusing to concede on Wednesday morning.
Both of these bitterly-fought contests had been widely watched around the country, with race playing a central theme. Gillum stood to become the first black governor of Florida if he won, while Abrams was bidding to become the first black female governor anywhere in America.
The night was not a write-off for Democrats, however, who chalked up wins in Michigan, Kansas and Illinois, and unseated Scott Walker, a one-time presidential hopeful, in Wisconsin.
A man dressed as Donald Trump lends his support to Florida governor candidate Ron DeSantis, an ally of the President who ultimately won his election against Democrat Andrew Gillum