- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Democrats ousted Republicans in suburban districts across the country Tuesday, taking the reins of power in the House and vowing to stand as a check to President Trump’s agenda.

Though the size of Democrats’ majority was still in doubt, networks projected they would at least net the 23 seats needed to take over when the new Congress convenes in January.

Democrats also netted governorships in Illinois, Michigan and Kansas, with more targets on the horizon. But they failed to win the governor’s mansions in Ohio and Florida, two big states where they’d had hopes for marquee victories.

Republicans, meanwhile, picked up at least three Senate seats in Missouri, North Dakota and Indiana, and were poised to win a fourth in Florida. Two other GOP-held seats in Arizona and Nevada hadn’t been called by early Wednesday, but Republicans will enjoy an expanded majority no matter what.

That ensures the GOP will be able to confirm Mr. Trump’s nominees, including judicial picks.

But the return to split control of Congress after four years of GOP majorities will be a major test for the president, who has shown little ability to reach across the aisle. Nor, with those GOP majorities, did he have a need.

Now he will.

“Today is more than about Democrats and Republicans, it’s about restoring the Constitution’s checks and balances to the Trump administration,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said at Democratic Party headquarters in Washington.

She is in line to become speaker, and said her party will bring “accountability” to the administration, though she also said they’ll strive for bipartisan deals on infrastructure, health care and drug prices.

Mr. Trump called Mrs. Pelosi just before midnight to congratulate her and acknowledged her calls for bipartisanship, a Pelosi aide said.

As the results poured in, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Mr. Trump is ready to deal if Democrats are.

“That’s what America wants to see. We have a president that is willing to work across the aisle to get things done,” she told Fox News. “They shouldn’t waste time investigating. They should focus on what the people put them there to do. There are things the president would like to work with them on.”

Democrats, though, have already signaled a long list of investigations, from the president’s finances to his immigration policy to lingering questions over Russian election meddling and the 2016 Trump campaign’s overtures.

While Democrats’ control of the House was the headline, Republicans’ expanded Senate majority cut into talk of an anti-Trump blue wave.

Three Democrats who voted against Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh in heavily pro-Trump states lost: Sens. Joe Donnelly in Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota and Claire McCaskill in Missouri.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Manchin III, the only Democrat to back Justice Kavanaugh, survived in West Virginia.

Democrats acknowledged their path to Senate control was always slim but took solace in limiting their losses.

“I don’t know what the final result tonight will be, but the fact that we’ve had even a narrow path to winning the Senate is a testament to the hard work you’ve put in over the past two years,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat and chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “We faced the toughest map in 60 years — and we didn’t give up or back down.”

Indeed for Republicans, the year has been a disappointment. The DSCC this week reminded reporters that two years ago, analysts were wondering whether the GOP would be on the cusp of a 60-seat Senate, given the favorable map: 26 Democrat-held seats, many in states Mr. Trump won in 2016, compared with just nine GOP-held seats.

But failures to recruit candidates in some of those races hurt the GOP, and Democrats won the fundraising battle.

The slim playing field for Republicans was even more surprising given the state of the economy. Growth, as measured by gross domestic product, was the most robust for any first-term president heading into the midterms since the Carter administration 30 years ago.

Republicans hoped voters would reward them, saying a spate of pro-business moves to cut regulations and last year’s tax-cut package have sent the economy into overdrive, sent unemployment to historic lows and fueled a rise in average wages.

Voters agreed the economy was solid, with about two-thirds telling the exit polls they were satisfied.

That was enough for Karim Elmalki, voting in Sterling, Virginia. He’d cast ballots for President Barack Obama twice and voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, but said after rising stocks and dropping unemployment, he was backing Republicans on Tuesday.

“This is basically, we are judging the Republican Party for the last two years. They’re doing not bad,” he said.

But for most voters, the elections were less about economic good times and more about Mr. Trump.

Nimat Shamari, 86, voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 but said she was so fed up with him that she voted against Rep. Barbara Comstock, a Republican, to send a signal.

“Barbara Comstock is good, but I don’t like Trump,” she said. “He’s not like a president. He’s like a shooter. … He has no friends — it’s bad for the country.”

Ms. Comstock would be the first GOP casualty of the night, losing her district in suburban Washington.

Mr. Trump had vacillated on how much blame he would shoulder for ceding the House.

He told The Associated Press in one interview that he would not accept responsibility for House defeats, saying he’s been a help, not a hindrance, to candidates. More recently, though, he said his agenda was indeed on the line. While pleading with voters to stop Democrats, he also hinted he will find ways to cooperate.

Mr. Trump led the Republican National Committee to a massive cash advantage over the Democratic National Committee — though that was the only area where the GOP led.

Democrats’ House and Senate campaign arms raised more than their Republican counterparts, and individual candidates raked in the cash, fueled by small-dollar contributions made online.

In some House races, Democratic challengers had a three-to-one cash advantage over the incumbent Republicans they were trying to unseat.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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