So Much for a ‘Blue Wave’ — 4 of the Biggest Midterm Takeaways

By Published on November 7, 2018

It wasn’t the blockbuster night Democrats were hoping for.

The blue wave fell far short of some of the major wave elections of the past decade.

In Tuesday’s midterms, Democrats claimed a majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in eight years — but their electoral gains were muted by significant Republican gains in the Senate.

“This is not a blue wave,” CNN’s Jake Tapper said while watching early election results come in. What transpired looked more like a blue ripple.

In the Senate, Republicans solidified their thin majority, with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas defending his seat in a high-profile race against Beyoncé-endorsed Rep. Beto O’Rourke. Florida Gov. Rick Scott defeated Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in one of the most important swing states in the nation, and Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley ousted two-term Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, thanks to what many consider the “Kavanaugh effect.”

Historic voting trends suggested Republicans would lose the House. According to Gallup, the president’s party “almost always suffers a net loss” in the House during an off-year election.

While those lost seats will be consequential — producing gridlock and new oversight investigations — historically speaking, the night could have been far worse for the incumbent party in power.

For instance, the first midterm election under President Barack Obama in 2010 was a major electoral defeat for Democrats. Republicans gained 63 seats in the House of Representatives and six seats in the Senate while making significant gains in state houses and gubernatorial elections.

The balance of power shifted Tuesday night, but not as drastically as Democrats had hoped.

1. Historic Campaign Cash Couldn’t Turn Texas Blue

There are some things money can’t buy. The Senate, it appears, is still one of them. Republican Ted Cruz held onto his Senate seat in his hotly contested race against Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who raised a historic amount of campaign cash.

The Center for Responsive Politics estimated the 2018 midterm elections in sum cost a record-breaking $5 billion. Leading in the bank was O’Rourke, who raised an astonishing $70 million. Of that, $53 million came from ActBlue, a nonprofit that enables Democrats to raise money via crowdsourcing.

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Overall, the Senate race in Texas cost over $100 million, with Cruz raising another $40 million. Cruz successfully defended his seat, but the race was a nail-biter. With 92 percent of precincts reporting, Cruz had just over 51 percent of the vote, while O’Rourke had 48 percent. That is unusually close for Texas.

While both sides would likely agree that money still matters in midterm elections, it was not the decisive factor in Texas.

2. The Kavanaugh Effect

It was a rough night for red state Senate Democrats who voted against the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was the only Senate Democrat who voted to confirm Kavanaugh. He narrowly defeated his opponent, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, in a state that President Donald Trump won overwhelmingly in 2016.

But a significant number of Senate Democrats up for election from states that Trump won in 2016 went down in defeat.

Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.; Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., all lost to Republican challengers.

According to the Associated Press, the Kavanaugh issue had a particularly big impact in North Dakota.

“[I]n North Dakota, where Republicans picked up a seat that helped them hold onto control of the Senate, voters concerned about Kavanaugh broke toward the GOP by about 2 to 1,” according to AP VoteCast, which is a national survey of the electorate.

3. A Bad Night for Prominent Progressive Candidates

A number of young, progressive stars went down in defeat despite receiving significant national attention.

O’Rourke of Texas was the most prominent defeat, but there were others.

Andrew Gillum, who gained notoriety for his stridently progressive views, lost to Rep. Ron Desantis in the Florida governor’s race.

And Stacey Abrams, who received an endorsement from Oprah, trailed Georgia’s secretary of state, Brian Kemp, in the governor’s race, though she vowed to keep pushing for victory in a runoff election.

With Democrats now taking the House for the first time in nearly a decade, staking their fortunes on resistance to Trump, it is now an open question who will become the face of the next generation of progressive leaders.

4. Celebrity Endorsements Didn’t Matter

Pop star Taylor Swift endorsed former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, for the Senate. He lost. Rihanna endorsed Democrat Andrew Gillum for the Florida governorship. He lost. Oprah, Rihanna, and Sean “Diddy” Combs all endorsed Democrat Stacey Abrams for the Georgia governorship. She lost. Beyoncé endorsed Beto O’Rourke in the Texas race for the Senate. He lost.

Suffice it to say, celebrity endorsements were one of the biggest losers of the midterms.

It appears Americans like Hollywood’s music, movies, and TV shows, but not their politics. Celebrity endorsements didn’t push candidates over the finish line. If anything, they may have done the opposite — urged the “forgotten” people to show up.


Copyright 2018 The Daily Signal

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  • Ken Abbott

    As much as I admire Ted Cruz, a more attractive Republican candidate would likely have won by a greater margin. Given Gov. Abbott’s (no relation) outsized victory yesterday, he likely could succeed Cruz with ease. Perhaps the president could be induced to find a place on the Supreme Court for Cruz.

    • Chip Crawford

      They say people moving in from California have a lot to do with a shift in the Texas electorate – bringing their progressive social issues in particular, while fleeing the failed fiscal policies. They tried so hard! but you still can’t mess with Texas to that degree. I don’t think their onslaught against Cruz spoke of his unattractiveness. Being a Godly man at heart, I think the experienced honed the steel a bit.

      • Ken Abbott

        The same thing is happening in Florida and the Carolinas, perhaps Georgia to a certain extent. Elsewhere I likened the effect to kudzu–an infestation in the south. Time for some cultural Roundup.

        • Chip Crawford


  • Chip Crawford

    Good summary points. The “Kavanaugh effect” was apparent repeatedly. In a real sense, though the Dems got taken to the woodshed last night. They actually could not help but regain the house due to the nature of so many of the races, but I hope they have the sense to get the wake-up call. I am more thrilled with the Senate results than I had anticipated, not just losing the establishment detractors, but gaining more on-board strength than I knew was there. If it’s a fight you want, a fight you are now going to have to face, Dems. Gosh – Rick Scott, that new man in Indiana!, Ted overcoming an onslaught, Marsha Blackburn!!, those vibrant young ones unseating the long-time Dem ladies in the Midwest and the rest. The majority of them are Christians btw. Praise God for this.

  • The General

    Now that the dust has settled, it’s gratifying to know that the hoax mail bombs scam didn’t really gain the Dems much.

  • Forrest Hamilton

    There was never going to be a blue wave, just more fake news

    • Chip Crawford

      Yeah, they got washed out actually themselves. You know, I honestly think the deluded dopes all around thought and have thought that the American people saw it like they did But, proven not true, so they have all changed their tunes … NOT! Blind obsession. Sad.

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