While Republicans entered the night with historical precedent and weeks of red wave projections firmly on their side, Democrats hit the hay in the wee hours of Wednesday morning tentatively cheers-ing their success in fending off a bloodbath.
But the President’s party’s ability to resist historical patterns for midterms, potentially ensuring that Republicans hold a slimmer-than-expected majority in the House, was not all that surprised us last night.
Not the red wave GOP was hoping for
Republicans may still take control of the House but general consensus: there was no “giant red wave.”
In the weeks leading up to the midterms, polls and precedent predicted overwhelming Republican wins across the country. But Republicans under-performed in key races and Democrats did much better than expected. Control of the lower chamber still hangs in the balance, but visions of a strong, unified GOP House super-majority have shifted significantly in the last 24 hours.
“Definitely not a Republican wave, that is for darn sure,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said in an interview with NBC News last night.
GOP candidates did perform well in places like Florida — with successful re-election bids from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). But in other states, like Pennsylvania, Republican candidates fell short of expectations and Democrats surprised by holding on to important House seats in Virginia and Texas as well as the Senate seat in New Hampshire.
DeSantis paints Florida red
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) quickly and decisively secured victory on Tuesday evening, with Republicans sweeping statewide offices.
The fact of DeSantis’ victory is less surprising than its conclusiveness. Florida counts fast, but even with that taken into account, there just wasn’t a significant fight put up by his opponent, Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL). DeSantis appears to have trounced him by nearly twenty percent of the vote.
This, in Florida: For years, it has been the quintessential swing state, bouncing back and forth in presidential, congressional, and state elections.
DeSantis’ handy victory – accompanied by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’s re-election against Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) – doesn’t only remove Florida from immediate Democratic aspirations. It also strengthens DeSantis’ claim as pretender to the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, setting up a fight with the state’s most famous Republican resident.
Pennsylvania doesn’t keep us waiting
This wasn’t 2020.
Then, the country spent days waiting as Pennsylvania tallied its votes, with the count revealing Biden’s assured victory over Trump.
This year, it was clear hours into the night: John Fetterman will be the next Senator from the state.
His victory is less a surprise than the fact that major networks could even call the election in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Apart from suggesting that Fetterman’s strategy of running down his loss margins in rural counties and keeping them up in urban and suburban areas paid off, the Fetterman victory has an ancillary benefit: the kind of MAGA opportunism that takes delayed vote counts as license to subvert election results has less breathing room here.
Boebert goes from mortal lock to fight of a lifetime
Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), the freshman flame-thrower in the style of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), has gone from an assured win to an absolute squeaker in Colorado’s third district.
With about 90 percent of the vote in, Democrat Adam Frisch is leading by just over a point. This race was once so in hand for Boebert that Frisch was advertising an internal poll showing him down seven points as a positive data point for his campaign.
If there’s an emerging theme from the election so far, it’s the broad rejection of MAGA extremists that we’re seeing unfold. Boebert, chasing national-level fame by calling her Democratic colleagues terrorists and heckling President Joe Biden while he talked about his dead son, may have gotten ahead of her skis.
Democrats secured some big trifectas
When it comes to Democratic glee, Michigan so far provides the biggest bounty. Democrats appear to have swept the legislature for the first time in 40 years, only stacking more victories atop Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) hold, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s (D) win, Attorney General Dana Nessel’s (D) lead, a Democratic hold of the state Supreme Court and a victory for an amendment protecting abortion access.
But it’s not the only state where Democrats will enjoy unified control. Historic gubernatorial wins in Maryland and Massachusetts, states with histories of moderate Republican control, delivered them two more. In Maryland, Wes Moore became the state’s first Black governor; Maura Healey because Massachusetts’ first openly gay and first woman governor.