Republicans exceed expectations in House | WORLD
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Republicans exceed expectations in House

Defying some projections, the GOP appeared poised to gain seats in the House and retain its hold on the Senate

Stephanie Bice AP Photo/Garett Fisbeck

Republicans exceed expectations in House
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As election results continued to trickle on Wednesday morning, Democrats were poised to maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. But Republicans had crushed Democrats’ hopes of significantly expanding their ranks. Democratic lawmakers lost their seats in at least seven districts, while their party failed to defeat a single Republican incumbent.

Going into the night, Democrats had control of the House 232-197, with five open seats and one independent seat. It takes 218 seats to have a majority.

Playing offense in the suburbs against freshman Democrats paid off for Republicans, who managed to retake some of the seats they lost in the 2018 midterm elections. That year, Democrats’ path to a majority led through the suburbs in metro areas trending blue like Orange County, Calif., Northern Virginia, and New York. Democrats also made gains in the metropolitan districts of Atlanta, Houston, and near Oklahoma City. Overall, they captured more than 40 seats in 2018.

This year, polling perhaps made Democrats overly optimistic they would make even more gains. But those polls may have overestimated Democratic chances.

On the campaign trail, the Republican message focused on rebuilding the economy and the threat of Democratic legislation. Democrats, meanwhile, focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and healthcare.

“Our purpose in this race was to win so that we could protect the Affordable Care Act and so that we could crush the virus,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters on election night.

As of Wednesday morning, the GOP had flipped seven seats, some in districts that went to Trump in 2016 but that Democrats had picked up in 2018. These victories included Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District (Republican challenger Stephanie Bice beat Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn), New Mexico’s 2nd District (Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small lost to Republican Yvette Herrell), and the 26th District in Florida (Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell lost to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez.)

Republicans also wrested control from some longer-term incumbents. Rep. Collin Peterson, a rare pro-life Democrat in a deep red district in Minnesota, lost to Republican Michelle Fischbach, ending Peterson’s almost 30 years in Congress. In Florida’s 27th District, Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala lost to Republican challenger Maria Elvira Salazar. Virginia’s 5th District was also touted as a toss-up, but Republican Bob Good led Democrat Cameron Webb throughout the night and ultimately captured the seat.

Republicans also seemed poised to capture New York’s 11th District from embattled freshman Democrat Rep. Max Rose and its 22nd District from Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi. Democrats hoped to make gains particularly in Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, and Texas. As of Wednesday morning, Democrats had flipped only two seats. They gained North Carolina’s 2nd and 6th districts, made more friendly to Democrats after court-ordered redistricting.

Of course, there are still many House races—over 50—that remain uncalled.

In a statement, Pelosi stressed the number of ballots that hadn’t been counted. “We have held the House and now, when after all the votes are counted—we’ll see how much better we will do than that,” she said. “There’s more to come.”Many incumbents from both sides of the aisle easily cruised to reelection, including progressives Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.

There were other noteworthy though unsurprising results: Ritchie Torres in New York’s 15th District will become Congress’ first openly gay Hispanic lawmaker. In New York’s 17th District, Mondaire Jones will become Congress’ first openly gay black lawmaker. In Iowa, Republican state Sen. Randy Feenstra easily beat Democrat J.D. Scholten to maintain GOP control of former Rep. Steve King’s seat. In North Carolina’s 11th District, Madison Cawthorn will become the youngest House member in modern history and fill the seat White House chief of staff Mark Meadows vacated. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who made waves for supporting the QAnon conspiracy theory (see below), won an open seat in Georgia.

Most pollsters gave Democrats a high likelihood of gaining up to 20 seats and said Republicans would do well to simply keep Democrats’ gains to single digits. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report on Monday predicted Democrats would capture 10 to 15 seats, perhaps even more.

“The House battlefield has steadily moved towards Democrats all cycle. And much like 2008, Speaker Nancy Pelosi could expand her party’s newly won majority by double digits,” Dave Wasserman had written. He noted that the combination of President Donald Trump’s unpopularity in the suburbs, a fundraising advantage for Democrats, and Republicans’ challenge of defending 32 open seats made it a tough uphill battle for the GOP.

In 2018, Democrats interpreted their blue wave as a clear repudiation of Trump’s first-term agenda. They then coalesced around a largely symbolic agenda to show Americans how they would govern if they won control of the presidency and the Senate. They passed aggressive bills that had no chance of making it through the Senate, including measures to rework voting and campaign finance laws, bolster gay and transgender rights, and drastically overhaul environmental laws.

The biggest legacy of the Democratic House majority of the 116th Congress is its impeachment of the president. Senate Republicans swatted down that effort, acquitting Trump.

Several Senate races remained undecided Wednesday morning, but Democrats appeared unlikely to wrest the Senate from GOP control. That would mean House Speaker Pelosi faces two more years of shepherding largely symbolic legislation through her own chamber—or finding areas of compromise.

Even if Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wins the White House, it is unlikely he’ll be able to pass aggressively partisan legislation as long as control of Congress remains divided. Last week, for instance, the candidate promised in an interview with Philadelphia Gay News that he would sign the Equality Act, which the House passed last May. The bill would expand the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes and shift the definition of public accommodations. It would have vast repercussions for religious liberty disputes and would essentially gut the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

One of the first priorities of the new Congress, regardless of how Election Day results shake out, will be putting another COVID-19 relief bill to bed. After weeks of negotiations that ended in a stalemate, Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will have to restart talks during Congress’ lame-duck session.

In the new Congress, Pelosi may remain focused on the agenda she has previously outlined for the House. It includes creating a path to citizenship for some young illegal immigrants, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and increasing federal spending on infrastructure projects.

But if Republicans gain seats, she will have to contend with a stronger and emboldened Republican minority.“We defied the odds. It’s the night of the Republican women,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Politico Wednesday morning. “The Democrats never solved one problem in their majority. They promised they would govern differently, and they didn’t.”

Marjorie Taylor Greene

Marjorie Taylor Greene AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

Losses for QAnon

Candidates supporting the apocalyptic internet movement known as QAnon gained much attention for winning primaries this election season. But on election night, nearly all of them lost their races.

QAnon encompasses many theories but is based on the belief that a group of elites (often referred to as “the cabal” or “the deep state”) is running the world and trafficking children for sex. The movement also believes President Donald Trump is working to destroy the deep state.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose June primary win in Georgia shocked the Republican establishment, was the only outspoken QAnon supporter to win a congressional seat on Tuesday night. She has called Q—the anonymous information-dropper behind QAnon—“a patriot” and called the movement “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles out.”

About five other outspoken QAnon supporters, some of whom had taken the QAnon oath, ran as Republicans in congressional races. All lost decisively on Tuesday. Two dozen other congressional candidates regularly shared QAnon memes and ideas on social media and in interviews, but in some cases it was unclear whether they knew where the misinformation was coming from.

QAnon does not have the features of a political institution but is a viral internet movement that thrives on memes and shareable posts. New York Magazine reported that only one QAnon super PAC exists—and it had only $4,000.The movement does have mainstream boosters, and the GOP did give money to QAnon supporters during the election campaigns. President Donald Trump has often shared QAnon tweets and theories on his Twitter account. When the House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning QAnon, most Republicans backed it, but 52 Republicans withheld their support. QAnon may not be a political party or have many representatives in Congress, but it still has influence. —Emily Belz

Harvest Prude

Harvest is a former political reporter for WORLD’s Washington Bureau. She is a World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College graduate.



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