Before All the Votes are Counted: Top Takeaways from the Midterms

It is hard to believe the midterms were just over a week ago… and we are still counting votes. Whether you have midterm fatigue or not, one thing is for certain: this election was one for the record books. The midterms saw record-breaking turnout (113 million people voted), record-breaking female congressional candidates (over 110 winners to boot) and record-breaking spending in the election cycle (a whopping $5.2 billion – a 35 percent increase from the 2014 midterms).

Cogent’s resident Democrat Andrew Kauders and Republican Randall Gerard offer their top five takeaways from this historic election.

Andrew’s Top Takes:

  1. Collective sigh of relief. When Democrats recaptured the US House of Representatives there was a sigh heard around the world. After a relatively calm eight years of bilateral relations with our closest allies during the Obama Administration, the turmoil that President Trump brought to the equation confused and agitated most of our historic partners. They too are hoping for some checks and balances.
  2. So you’re saying there’s a chance? Florida continues to be the ultimate prize and the ultimate tease for Democrats. We concede, we “unconcede,” we recount and…well, maybe this time will be different. The midterms were exhausting enough without all that drama in the Sunshine State. Having said that, Democrats losing the governorship in Ohio and a potential loss in Florida may come back to bite us in 2020 when Republican secretaries of state – appointed in Florida and elected in Ohio – will be overseeing the election process. Unlike Lloyd’s chances in Dumb and Dumber, we hope it’s better than one in a million for Democrats in Florida.
  3. Party tug-of-war. Should the current House Democratic leadership remain in place, Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD) will have to push back against progressives in the Democratic Caucus calling to immediately impeach President Trump. Will the expected avalanche of committee investigations and subpoenas appease the grassroots’ impeachment drumbeat?
  4. Business as usual. While the initial phone calls between Leader Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and President Trump were promising, what are the odds that Washington will experience a renaissance of civility and bipartisan cooperation? Exactly. Give it a month or until the next State of the Union and things will be back to business as usual. It is hard to imagine Republicans agreeing to a bipartisan, bicameral legislative agenda while House Democrats run active committee investigations. That will likely be enough to lead us down a path of trench warfare and possible gridlock.
  5. It was Trump, stupid. Unlike 1992 and subsequent elections it was not, “the economy, stupid.” It was President Trump (and the tone he has set), healthcare, immigration and the desire for the restoration of checks and balances.

Randall’s Top Takes:

  1. Minority party – what’s that? Democrats control the House for the first time since the 111th Congress (January 2009 – January 2011) and just north of 50 returning House Republicans have experienced minority party status. Time will tell how Republicans manage their new standing and how being in the minority guides their policy positions and influences their politics as the party stares down the 2020 Presidential.
  2. Rebels with a cause? The House Freedom Caucus (HFC) did not exist and the Republican Study Committee (RSC) was a lesser known entity the last time House Republicans were in the minority. The roles of the HFC and RSC in the 116th Congress will have a stronger hand in a smaller Republican Conference. How does this translate in terms of policy and politics? Should she be elected Speaker, will Leader Pelosi take a page from former Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) playbook and court the few remaining House Republican moderates to address must-pass legislation?
  3. Where does Leader McConnell go post-election? Senate Republicans picked up seats in 2016 Trump states like North Dakota, Indiana and Missouri but those increases will likely not alter Leader McConnell’s strategy; he famously plays the long game and he won’t rush to be a deal-maker unless a good deal is there. Leader McConnell will see what Leader Pelosi has to offer in terms of legislation though more likely than not it won’t appeal to Republicans. Expect Senate Republicans to focus on judges, presidential nominations and stopping House bills that are anathema to the Senate Majority. Leader McConnell is also on the ballot in 2020 – a factor he’ll be cognizant of as he inches closer to re-election.
  4. “Rockin’ the suburbs.” Republicans have a suburban problem and they need to fix it… fast. The GOP lost House seats in suburban Chicago, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Denver and elsewhere. Clearly retirements played a large role but to blame the losses entirely on that factor would be shortsighted and just plain wrong.
  5. Glass half full? Or half empty? The 2020 Senate map isn’t as bad for Republicans as people claim. Some examples: Colorado and North Carolina are two of the only true purple states in the country that will be in play; Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) will be in the fight of his life in Alabama; and, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) last won Virginia by less than one percent. Plus, President Trump will be on the ballot in 2020 and at the top of the ticket amid key senate races in Michigan and Minnesota. On the House side, this year was an anomaly for Republicans. Will we have 50+ open GOP-held seats in suburban districts every election cycle? No. Make no mistake about it, I would rather be in the position Democrats are in, but they have their work cut out for them. Remember, President Trump loves a grudge-match and the Democrats will likely give him exactly what he wants – a constant game of compare and contrast for the next two years.