Last week’s election, a second look

On Election Night, I wrote that the so-called Blue Wave many on the left were expecting had turned into a fizzle. This was a reasonable assessment when I wrote it. Republicans had won Senate seats in Indiana and Missouri, two toss-up races, along with the expected victory in North Dakota. In Florida, where the Democrat was slightly favored to win, the Republican was winning. (No votes had yet been counted out west.)

FiveThirtyEight had placed the probability of Democrats capturing the House at less than 50 percent. No one believed this assessment, not even Nate Silver. However, it did seem that Democratic gains would fall short of expectations. Instead of flipping 40 seats, they might flip 25 to 30.

However, as Yuval Levin points out, things turned out better for the Democrats than initially seemed to be the case. Of the three big Senate races in the West, the Dems won two (Nevada and Montana) and are winning in Arizona. Even the Republican Senate victory in Florida may be in jeopardy.

On the House side, Democratic gains will exceed 30 and may approach 40. According to Levin, they almost certainly will be the largest for Democrats in a midterm election since the Watergate era.

This wasn’t a wave election, I got that much right. But the Democrats didn’t fizzle.

As noted, this will likely be their best showing in a midterm election in decades. And considering all of the Red State seats the Dems had to defend, they fared okay even if Rick Scott’s victory is upheld in Florida. They successfully defended Senate seats in Deep Red West Virginia and Montana and picked up seats in purplish Arizona and Nevada.

It’s true that on the House side, Democratic gains were almost exclusively in the suburbs. But that’s no small thing. As matters stand, cities are strongholds for Democrats and rural areas are strongholds for the GOP. This makes the suburbs crucial to overall electoral success.

I’m not saying that the suburbs are lost to President Trump or to the GOP. I am saying that losing badly in the suburbs this time is a setback. And I’m saying that the Democrats had a better night than the Republicans.

I agree with Levin’s conclusion:

The [election] results were hardly signs of a coming political revolution, and they don’t even put this election on the level of the 2010 recoil from the Obama Administration’s first two years. But within the important swing block of suburban voters, which both parties need to attract if they are to build and sustain durable coalitions, the Democrats did significantly better than they first appeared to on election night.

That is a conclusion Republicans will need to internalize, but will probably manage to ignore in large part because you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

And in part because President Trump seems to lack both the desire and the capacity to internalize bad news.

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