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Months of speculation and rumination collided with reality on Tuesday as Democrats secured a long-sought majority in the House while Republicans tightened their grip on the Senate.
Election Day did not unfold exactly as either party had hoped. Democrats failed to hold onto several key Senate seats, while Republicans were ultimately unable to keep their losses in the House below the 23-seat threshold that Democrats needed to win the chamber.
But there were bright spots for the parties, as well. Democrats made gains in many of the suburban districts they had sought to pick up, while Republicans consolidated their support in deep-red states, like North Dakota and Indiana.
Here are five takeaways from the election night.
Florida falls short of Democrats’ expectations
Election Day in Florida wasn’t all that Democrats had hoped for.
As voters headed to the polls on Tuesday, party strategists and officials were bullish, not just on their chances in several key House races, but in their prospects of retaking the governor’s mansion for the first time in two decades.
But as the vote count came in, their expectations went unmet. Andrew Gillum, the progressive mayor of Tallahassee whose gubernatorial bid had captured the hearts of Democrats, ultimately conceded to Republican Ron DeSantis. He trailed by only one point.
Likewise, in Florida’s ultra-competitive Senate race, Republican Gov. Rick Scott appeared to be headed for a narrow win over incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), bringing a close to the three-term Democrat’s Senate career.
Florida offered good news for Democrats as well. The party’s nominee in Florida’s 27th District, Donna Shalala, won her race to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. And Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell edged outRep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) from his South Florida seat.
But another toss-up race in the state’s 15th District went to Republican Ross Spano. Meanwhile, the GOP candidates beat back challenges in three other districts that Democrats had once seen as competitive, frustrating the party’s hopes for a blue wave in the Sunshine State.
Democrats make gains in suburbs
When Democrats set out to reclaim a House majority, they knew their path would take them through suburban districts in states like Virginia, Pennsylvania and Minnesota.
On Tuesday, they laid claim to such districts.
One of the first major gains for the party came in Northern Virginia, where Democrat Jennifer Wexton ousted Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) from the state’s 10 District, which includes the western suburbs of Washington, D.C.
Hours later, Virginia’s 7th District, which includes Richmond suburbs and vast stretches of rural country, flipped for Democrat Abigail Spanberger.
Among the other suburban districts to go for Democrats on Tuesday were Florida’s 26th District, where Mucarsel-Powell edged out Curbelo, and Minnesota’s 3rd District, where Democrat Dean Phillips defeated Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.).
Democrats’ support in these suburban districts has largely been driven by dissatisfaction with President Trump among moderates, women and college-educated voters. Those voters ended up being a key part of the party’s coalition on Tuesday.
Rockstar Democrats have a bad night
A handful of Democratic hopefuls barreled into the general election with seemingly larger-than-life profiles that captured priceless media attention and raised the hopes of their supporters.
But a number of them came up short on Election Day.
In Florida, Gillum, who had drawn comparisons to former President Barack Obama and excited his party’s liberal base, conceded to DeSantis after it became clear that he could not make up the 1-point difference that separated them.
And in Texas, Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) fell to Sen. Ted Cruz (R), despite bringing in record-shattering fundraising hauls and developing a fanbase that stretched far beyond the borders of his state. He still managed to keep the race close, trailing his Republican opponent by only a couple hundred thousand votes.
The final results of the governor’s race in Georgia remain less clear. Hours after polls closed, the race remained uncalled, with Democrat Stacey Abrams trailing Republican Brian Kemp by 3-points in the vote tally. Her campaign said in the early hours of Wednesday morning that they expect a recount.
Virginia solidifies blue-state status
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) stormed to victory in Virginia’s 2017 governor’s race, which was the first major sign that Democrats could have a shot at regaining the House majority.
A year later, Virginia played a critical role in helping to deliver Democrats the lower chamber, while also solidifying the swing seat as a blue state.
Democratic Wexton cruised to victory over Comstock in the D.C. suburbs, which was viewed as a must-win for Democrats.
Northern Virginia has turned solidly blue thanks to anti-Trump backlash in the suburbs that started back in 2016 with Hillary Clinton’s double-digit win and continued with Northam’s romp in 2017.
Plus, Democrats had a good night by picking up GOP-leaning seats in Trump districts that further emphasized the party’s ability to expand the battlefield.
Democrat Elaine Luria, a retired U.S. Navy commander, narrowly defeatedRep. Scott Taylor (R-Va.), while former CIA agent Spanberger eked out a win over Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.).
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) cruised to victory over Republican Corey Stewart, depriving Republicans of a strong top of the ticket contender that could have possibly given House members some coattail effects.
It was a good night for Senate Republicans
Senate Republicans had a good night even as historical headwinds cost their party the majority in the House.
As of early Wednesday morning, Republicans had flipped Democratically held seats in Missouri, Indiana and North Dakota. They also appeared to have toppled Nelson’s seat in Florida, though the senator’s campaign pushed back on reports that he had conceded the race.
The outcome will give Republicans at least 52 seats in January. They could easily expand their majority, despite losing Nevada, if they win the Mississippi runoff election on Nov. 27 or hold their seats in Arizona and Nevada or flip Montana, which had not been called as of 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
Republicans keeping their Senate majority will give Trump a firewall in Congress against emboldened House Democrats, who have pledged to be a thorn in the side of the administration if they won the House majority.
The red-state wins come after Trump barnstormed key races to back GOP candidates in the waning days of the midterm election.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took a victory lap even as key races remained uncalled, with his campaign account tweeting out a GIF of the GOP leader smiling.
McConnell and Trump spoke on Tuesday night amid the favorable election results, a spokesman for the Senate GOP leader confirmed, and McConnell thanked the president for his help in picking up seats.