Live Blog: The 2018 Midterm Elections

We at the Washington Monthly are providing fresh insights and commentary as the election unfolds. The 2018 midterms are the first nationwide opportunity voters have to weigh in on Donald Trump’s presidency. We will be tracking the outcomes of House and Senate races, as well as state-level elections, constitutional amendments, and referenda across the country. We will also offer analysis as winners are declared and trends emerge. Continue to check in with us throughout the night.

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5:05 am

I’ve seen a lot of commentary throughout the night about Democrats’ increasing strength in suburbs and exurbs (i.e. “Romney-Clinton districts”) that implicitly, or sometimes explicitly, writes off rural areas. But Democrats did do better in a lot of rural America, including areas that voted for Trump. As I wrote towards the beginning of the night, sometimes that improvement was quite modest (a few percentage points). But there are also plenty of rural, very conservative places where Democrats over-performed their 2016 vote share by even more. In VA-06, the district I covered for my story, Democrats improved their performance by seven points. In NY-21 the Democrats gained nine points.

And this mattered! Kansas governor-elect Laura Kelly seriously outperformed Hillary Clinton’s 2016 vote share across rural Kansas, in some cases by more than 20 points. Kelly’s wins in the state’s more urban and suburban regions clearly helped power her to victory. But it’s very difficult to imagine this result if Kelly hadn’t had this kind of showing in rural parts of the state.

— Daniel Block

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3:40 am

This doesn’t quite seem like the result progressives were hoping for. Yes, Democrats won the House, but they needed to take the House. The party lost seats in the Senate it was favored to win, and its performance in gubernatorial races is a little bit underwhelming (if still good). Opposition parties tend to make sizable midterm gains, and 2018 is no exception. But unfortunately, it’s hard to interpret these results as a clear repudiation of Trump himself.

— Daniel Block

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12:10 am

David Axelrod just made an important point. Democratic control of the House gives Trump one political advantage. It gives him an excuse for why he hasn’t followed through on his promises. Had he succeeded at dismantling the Affordable Care Act without a replacement, and millions of Americans lost their healthcare, he would have had to deal with the fallout. The Republican failure to repeal Obamacare saved him from that. The Democrats thwarting more of his legislative priorities will do the same.

— Eric Cortellessa

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12:03 am

The Senate results are really bad for Democrats. They’re going to start in a serious hole in 2020. It’s way too far away to say anything conclusive, but if a Democrat wins the presidency in 2020 and the GOP keeps the Senate, they might be able to get very little accomplished.

— Daniel Block

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11:57

The New York Times is projecting that Democrats will finish with a 7.6 percent lead in the popular vote. For comparison purposes, Sam Wang gathered the numbers for “wave elections” in the recent past:

  • 1994: R+7.1%
  • 2006: D+8%
  • 2008: D+10.6%
  • 2010: R+7.2%.

With that 7.2 percent lead in the 2010 popular vote, Republicans gained 63 House seats and 6 Senate seats. There are clearly structural disadvantages that are difficult for Democrats to overcome. Those primarily stem from gerrymandering and a concentration of voters in urban areas.

— Nancy LeTourneau

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11:46

New York Rep. Chris Collins–who is indicted on insider trading–has won reelection. The first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump, Collins benefited from running in one of the state’s most conservative districts, where there are 40,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats. But he was still out on bail and facing more than 100 years in jail. That he won under these circumstances reveals the extent to which partisan loyalty reigned supreme in 2018. As I argued in my Washington Monthly dispatch from Buffalo, Collins will use his House seat when seeking a lesser sentence in a plea bargain before a grand jury in 2020. That enough voters didn’t care about Collins’s brazen corruption says everything about what Trump has made tolerable within certain portions of the American electorate.

— Eric Cortellessa

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11:38

I wrote about State Legislative pickups on Monday and focused on a local one in Pennsylvania’s 160th congressional district in the Philadelphia suburbs. To get an idea of high turnout was, I had analyzed this race over the summer and estimated that it would take 12,000 votes to safely win. The Democrat, Anton Andrew, has 14,217 and is still trailing but just shy of 700 votes. That was a bellwether district for me; that it didn’t fall is revealing of how the night has gone for the Democrats. I knew it would be a tough race, but I’m actually shocked that my own state representative from the 167th District, Republican Duane Milne, appears headed to defeat. He’s locally popular, scandal free, famous for good constituent services, and losing by 1,300 votes to a candidate whose website wouldn’t even load when I checked it last night. That’s the kind of tsunami effect I was looking for in the Philly suburbs–but I didn’t expect to see it wash over my own district.

— Martin Longman

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11:31

My earlier post on Pennsylvania was apparently too optimistic. The Dems have fallen behind in all the reach districts and are trailing narrowly in the Bucks County 1st District as well, although many of these races have not been called. For whatever reason, the early leads disappeared as more results came in. It will still be a great day for the Democrats in Pennsylvania, but not the complete and shocking shellacking that looked possible an hour ago. Right now, the Dems are guaranteed to pick up three seats, with one additional race a toss-up that they’re losing. Meanwhile, the Erie Co. and Harrisburg races are looking bleak but not yet done. So, there is still a possible fourth seat Democrats can win, with a small chance of a fifth.

— Martin Longman

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11:27

It’s still too early to know whether 2018 was the “Year of the Woman” that some thought it would be. Regardless of what happens in the House and Senate, governorships will still be dominated by men. Before the election, women led a mere six out 50 states. As of right now, the Los Angeles Times has women winning just four gubernatorial races this year.

— Grace Gedye

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11:15

The South has had a lot of bad news for Democrats tonight. The only big potential pickup opportunity that’s left is in Georgia, where Stacey Abrams is behind by more than 200,000 votes with about half of Atlanta still left to report.

— Daniel Block

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11:03

Hopes are gone for a Democratic Senate majority with losses in Indiana, Texas, and North Dakota, as well as a race that is probably headed to a recount in Florida. The one surprising wrinkle in all thebad news for Democrats is that, with 69 percent of precincts reporting, Democrat Mike Espy is leading Republican incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith in the Senate special election in Mississippi.

— Nancy LeTourneau

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10:41

With control of the House, the Democrats will finally have subpoena power over the president. That could obviously help them obtain some much desired information about Trump–hello tax returns?–but it might also have some other implications. Nancy Pelosi recently said that Democrats could use that as leverage to get the president to move in their direction on other issues.

— Eric Cortellessa

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10:33

Ted Cruz has won reelection, allowing Republicans to maintain a Senate majority. Democrats, meanwhile, seem poised to make some serious gains in the House. CNN just predicted they will pick up 35 seats in that chamber. They need 23 to take control.

— Eric Cortellessa

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10:31

It’s crazy that you can run for office if you’ve been indicted of eleven felonies (Chris Collins) but can’t vote in many states if you’ve been convicted of one.

— Daniel Block

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10:13

We won’t have a full picture for a while, but if things break the right way, Pennsylvania may provide the best news for the Democrats tonight. The Bucks County seat in the Philadelphia suburbs between Republican incumbent Brian Fitzpatrick and Democrat Scott Wallace is a dead heat. Everything else that was contested looks good or at least conceivably winnable for the blue party. Madeleine Dean (Montgomery Co.), Mary Scanlan (Delaware Co.), and Chrissy Houlahan (Chester Co.) are looking like solid winners. The same is true of Susan Wild, who will pickup a Lehigh Valley seat. But much more surprisingly, Ron DiNicola is leading in Erie County in the northwest corner of the state. Conor Lamb has already been declared the winner in what is technically a pickup, which is offset by the GOP winning the seat Lamb abandoned. In the 11th District, which was already red and made much redder after court-ordered redistricting, Republican Rep. Lloyd Smucker is laboring to win reelection, and in Pennsylvania’s 10th District near Harrisburg, the race is very close.

It’s also significant that the Democrats reelected both a governor and a U.S. Senator with ease in a state that Trump narrowly carried two years ago.

— Martin Longman

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10:11

Laura Kelly’s victory is the kind of thing that gives me hope. There can be such a thing as too crazy, like Kris Kobach.

— Daniel Block

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9:58

Riffing off of Daniel’s point–and assuming that current trends continue–Trump will have another narrative to emphasize: Bill Clinton suffered a red wave in 1994, Barack Obama in 2010. It’s practically an inevitability that the president’s party will lose lots of seats in the midterm election. But Republicans actually gained Senate seats in 2018. That will likely be a data point Trump cherry picks to sell this election as a positive referendum on his presidency. And don’t be surprised if he spreads some conspiracy theory to explain Democratic House pickups.

— Eric Cortellessa

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9:56

Even if Democrats take the House, this is probably a great night in Trump’s eyes. The Republicans are poised to make gains in the Senate. Trump likes to cherry pick positive stories to create his own narrative, and he’ll have plenty to pick from.

— Daniel Block

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9:47

In some of the bluest precincts of Texas, voters are stuck in long lines. It’s the aftermath of a messy election day for much of the state, where nine precincts failed to open on time and some initially had just one or two functional machines when they were supposed to have eight or sixteen. That county officials called this “typical of start-up issues on Election Day” speaks to the voting system’s level of dysfunction. Democratic senate candidate Beto O’Rourke tweeted a video telling voters to stay in lines at polling stations, even if it’s past closing time.

Two organizations sued Harris County, and a judge ruled to keep the polls there open for an additional hour, until 9 EST. Harris is Texas’s most populous county, and it broke for Clinton by 12 points. Its votes will be tallied after other parts of the state–so it could mean a late surge of votes for O’Rourke.

— Grace Gedye

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9:02

Larry Hogan has won re-election in Maryland. As I wrote last week for the Washington Post, Hogan was very successful at projecting himself as a moderate when, in fact, he has governed much more like a conventional Republican. His veto record, I argued, was the greatest reflection of his conservative impulses. Now that he won’t have to face Maryland voters again–as governor, he is term-limited–he is likely to start moving even more to the right, especially if he has national ambitions.

— Eric Cortellessa

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8:51

In the rural, western parts of Virginia, Kaine is outperforming Clinton by a few percentage points, but not by that much. My (extremely rough) analysis in other rural, southern parts of the country suggests a similar trend. The Democrats I spoke to in these areas thought they would do better.

— Daniel Block

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8:50

Braun winning is the second severe warning shot tonight, after disappointing numbers in House races in Virginia. Florida races look like a problem, too.

— Martin Longman

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8:48

Republican Mike Braun wins the U.S. Senate race in Indiana, beating the incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly. That means an even steeper climb for Democrats in the senate.

— Nancy LeTourneau

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8:37

Ayanna Pressley will be the first black woman to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives.

— Martin Longman

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8:32

Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib has won #MI13, becoming the first Muslim woman ever elected to Congress.

— Nancy LeTourneau

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8:29

To regain control of the Senate, the Democrats would have to claim two Republican-held seats. Beto is currently leading in Texas with 51% of the vote, but the Democrats are currently trailing behind at 31 seats to the Republicans’ 42. Andrew Gillum also just fell behind in his race. As of now, it’s looking bleak.

— Kaila Philo

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8:24

So far Democrats have gained two of the 23 House seats they need for a majority. VA10 called for Wexton over Comstock and FL27 called for Shalala over Salazar.

— Nancy LeToruneau

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8:20

Beto O’Rourke appears to be leading in his Senate race. Texas is traditionally a red state, but Ted Cruz’s widespread unpopularity has definitely helped Beto. The incumbent’s painful reference to the Zodiac Killer also could have helped.

— Kaila Philo

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8:17

Stacey Abrams appears to be struggling in the preliminary polls. She currently stands at 33.1 percent of the votes to Brian Kemp’s 66.4, but it’s worth noting that Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, has waged war against voting rights for months. In October, the Associated Press reported that Kemp’s office was blocking 53,000 voters from registering—70% of them were black.

— Kaila Philo

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8:08

Florida to me feels a lot like it did in 2016: The Democrat jumped out to an early lead, but as more and more rural areas reported, that lead started to dissipate. I hope I’m wrong, there is still time, but I’m not feeling great about the gubernatorial race right now.

— Daniel Block

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I visited Virginia’s sixth congressional district for my latest magazine story. Democrats there definitely want to be doing better than they are now. But given how conservative the district is, I’m impressed that it hasn’t been called yet. Close to 40 percent of votes are in.

— Daniel Block

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7:53

Daily Kos Elections actually did benchmarks to judge how Amy McGrath is doing in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District. According to their calculations, McGrath is right on target to hit 50 percent of the vote despite trailing narrowly in the votes that have already been reported.

— Martin Longman

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7:28

In one of her final interviews as the polls are closing, Nancy Pelosi is saying Democrats won’t try to impeach the president. This is a sensible strategy. There are lots of Democratic candidates on the cusp in Trump-friendly districts. They obviously don’t want to alienate their many constituents who love Trump.

Nate McMurray, who I wrote about earlier this week, is one of those candidates. Running to unseat Chris Collins–the first member of Congress to endorse Trump–McMurray has had to fend off his opponent’s key attack: that a vote for McMurray is a vote against the president and against Republican control of the House. That argument would probably have already sealed the deal if Collins was not under indictment for insider trading and lying to the FBI.

Pelosi, or any other Democratic leader, can always say, at a later point, that new information makes it necessary to initiate impeachment proceedings. But right now, progressives are fired up enough to put a check on Trump. Pelosi knows that Democrats don’t need to win voters they already have. Vowing to impeach Trump, at this time, only makes it harder to win some of the voters they need.

— Eric Cortellessa

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7:14

There is no good argument against any of Ezra Klein’s proposals.

As our editor Paul Glastris wrote this summer, Democrats should focus on universal vote by mail, otherwise known as vote at home, the next time they regain control of the White House and both chambers of Congress.

— Daniel Block

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6:55

Brian Kemp, apparently, had trouble voting. I never want anyone to have trouble accessing the polls, but oh boy, you reap what you sow.

— Daniel Block

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6:48

If Joe Donnelly is going to win reelection, he’ll need to do well in Indianapolis, Gary, and college towns like Bloomington, none of which have reported any votes yet. So, the margin in the Indiana race right now isn’t meaningful at the moment, although we can probably glean some useful information by comparing the counties we have seen reported to six years ago when Donnelly initially won this seat.

— Martin Longman

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6:08

One thing I am going to be watching closely tonight is how Democrats perform in rural, typically conservative areas that have not gotten as much attention as Rust Belt, suburban, and exurban districts. I’m interested to see if the anticipated uptick in progressive enthusiasm extends to these parts of the country as well–if, of course, that uptick materializes at all.

This is following up on my recent story for the magazine about progressives who live deep inside “Trump Country.” The ones I spoke to, at least, seemed pretty fired up.

— Daniel Block

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6:05

As of 6 p.m., some of the first results are starting to come in. Follow our live-blog and www.washingtonmonthly.com throughout the night for incisive analysis on the elections.

— The Editors