By Jim Ellis
Nov. 7, 2018 — The long 2018 midterm election cycle drew to a close last night and, as predicted, split government will return to Capitol Hill. Republicans held the Senate and saw their majority grow as Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Donnelly (IN), and Claire McCaskill (MO) fell to Republican challengers. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) likely will be forced into a recount to see if his just-under 40,000 vote advantage will be enough to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson (D).
The Montana race is undecided as Sen. Jon Tester (D) is on the precipice of losing but the outstanding vote suggests he could survive by a very small margin. The razor-thin Arizona race is a must-hold for the GOP. Democrat Jacky Rosen defeated Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller, and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin (D) fought back a tough challenge from Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R).
If all of these follow their current trends, Republicans will gain a net of four seats and increase their majority margin to 55-45. If Montana and Arizona go Democratic, the division would slip to 53R-47D. In any event, it appears likely that the Republicans will gain two to four seats.
The new Senate will maintain their new majority split once the Nov. 27 run-off election is held and decided in Mississippi. In that new secondary election, appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) will face former US Agriculture Secretary and ex-Mississippi congressman, Mike Espy (D). Sen. Hyde-Smith placed first in the Nov. 6 preliminary vote and ended with 41.5 percent of the vote, not close to secure the majority support that would have elected her outright and just ahead of Espy’s 40.6 percent. State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville) was third with 16.4 percent, likely denying Hyde-Smith the opportunity to win in the first round. He is eliminated from further competition.
As predicted, the House did flip to the Democrats and leadership elections will soon be held to determine who will replace retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). It is perceived that California’s Nancy Pelosi will again become the speaker after serving from 2007-11 and losing the post when the Republicans secured the majority in the 2010 election.
The new House will break in the neighborhood of 230 seats, leaving the Republicans with approximately 205. The final numbers won’t be known until we get a better picture of the uncalled races and those from California and Washington. Overall, 19 contests remain uncalled.
California and Washington allow voters to postmark their mail ballots on Election Day, meaning we could be days and probably weeks from knowing the final outcome, particularly in the former state. The Golden State is notoriously slow in counting ballots ever since going to mostly mail (about 75 percent of the ballots are mailed as opposed to in-person tallies) voting. Once the ballots arrive and a clear count of the remaining ballots becomes available, vote-tallying counting days will be scheduled.
It would not be surprising to see the final tally recorded at or after Thanksgiving. Washington is much quicker in counting, so we can expect final recordings on their votes within 10 days.
It appears that Democrats took 34 Republican seats, not counting what could be the final result in California and Washington. Another three to five could come in those states. Possibly as many as three Democratic seats reverted to the Republican column.
Democrats also had a good night in the governors’ races, but they needed one. Down 33-16-1, Democrats needed to make gains in this election when Republicans had 26 states to defend. They took advantage of their opportunity. The new governors’ division appears to be 27R – 23D, with Democrats converting Republican State Houses in Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin. Particularly in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Kansas the gubernatorial results will have a major effect upon 2021 redistricting.
Republicans held the critical redistricting states of Florida and Ohio. In all but New Hampshire and Vermont (those two states award their governors only two-year terms), the governors elected last night will hold the veto pen over the new redistricting maps for the House of Representatives and state legislative chambers.
According to exit polling, the pre-election research data proved correct. Women, particularly highly educated females, and Independent voters broke strongly toward the Democrats. The GOP advantage with men remained in effect, but the margins were smaller than in previous years. Partisanship was strong as virtually all Democrats voted Democratic and all Republicans voted Republican. As people grow older they tend to vote more Republican, but even in the upper age categories the GOP margin was again lesser than in previous recent election years.
President Trump, as predicted, was a major factor in the election; those who noted that and considered him being a factor voted heavily Democratic. However, there were voters who believed that he was not a big part of this election, and they broke in an almost equal proportion for the GOP candidates.
It also appeared that the Justice Kavanaugh battle did favor Republicans. If Sen. Tester fails to overcome Matt Rosendale’s small advantage, all of the contested Democrats who opposed the Kavanaugh nomination would have lost their seats. The lone Democrat voting for Justice Kavanaugh, West Virginia Sen. Manchin, survived a tough challenge.