With Republican gubernatorial wins in Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire and Iowa plus President Donald Trump helping Senate Republican score major pickups in Florida, Missouri, Indiana, and North Dakota, the race for 2020 is on — and Trump might have an edge.
Montana and Arizona will be finished counting in the coming days, but stand out as another potential pickup and another likely GOP hold. If so, Republicans will have netted four seats. Democrats did pick up Nevada.
But this was not a 2006 or 2010 wipeout. Trump beat the midterm jinx. Usually incumbents lose seats on a net basis in the House and Senate. Instead, Trump and the GOP held the line in the Senate. This was no Blue Wave.
Incumbents usually lose Senate seats 71 percent of the time going back a century, with an average loss of six seats.
Trump picked up a net of three or four seats in the Senate in states he campaigned in heavily, bucking the trend. Mississippi will go to a run off., but most likely it was still a plus night for Republicans.
The House loss by Republicans was not unexpected.
Failure to build the wall and repeal Obamacare certainly loom large. Unfavorable redistricting played a role in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Futzing about with state and local tax deductions however instead of cutting spending get a better budget score on the tax cut bill stands out as an unnecessary political blunder as Republicans lost seats in highly taxed states New York, New Jersey, California and Illinois.
Incumbent parties lose seats in the House 89 percent of the time, with losses averaging 35 seats going back a century. This is owed largely to the out party, this time Democrats, being fired up — and they were.
But it could have been so much worse. In 1932, Republicans lost 101 seats. In 1946, Democrats lost 54 seats. In 1958, Republicans lost 48 seats. In 1966, Democrats lost 47 seats. In 1974, Republicans lost 48 seats. In 1994, Democrats lost 54 seats. In 2010, Democrats lost 63 seats.
This time, there was an offset. Democrats overplayed their hands on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanagh and in sadly, madly blaming Republican voters and Trump for tragic attacks in Pittsburgh and by a would-be mail-bomber out of Florida.
Turns out calling your opponents racists and crazies makes them mad.
And then there was Trump, appearing at rallies in battlegrounds and firing up his political base.
Polls that showed Democratic strength in the Senate simply did not account for a turnout scenario where Republicans got fired up, too. Many polls were predicting traditional midterm turnout where the out party was fired up and the incumbent party is lazy. The latter didn’t happen.
Overall, Republican strength in gubernatorial races in Iowa, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Ohio shows it will be difficult to unseat an incumbent Republican president come 2020.
That’s a lot of ground for Democrats to have to cover. And Trump will have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend in swing states as he consolidates his position. As usual, stay tuned.
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.