Well, I almost nailed the Senate, but I wasn’t close on the House. Guess I should have made a prediction on governors to use as the tiebreaker.
It looks like my main mistake was underestimating the importance of Republicans losing 40+ House incumbents who retired early for various reasons. I assumed that since Republicans held those seats before, they were likely Republican-leaning districts, but that wasn’t the case. That’s one disadvantage of trying to maintain a 10,000-foot view instead of digging into individual races.
I think some of the difference between the Senate and House results has to be credited to Trump’s rallies. They were focused mainly on Senate races, probably because there were fewer of those up for grabs. And frankly the Senate is more important to his goals. But that left a lot of new Republican challengers fighting against better-funded Democrats in a lot of out-of-the-way places. If it turns out several of those were close, it might be that some rallies in different places could have saved them, but that’s Monday-morning quarterbacking.
All in all, while it’s disappointing, it could have been a lot worse. Obama lost 63 House seats and 6 in the Senate in his first midterm. Clinton lost 52 House and 8 Senate in his. Dubya gained a few seats because we were gearing up for war and patriotism was high. But on average, presidents have lost 30 seats between the two houses in midterms, and in only a few cases have they gained seats in either one. So while the media will move the goalposts from “blue wave” to “losing the House is a disaster for Trump,” the reality is otherwise.
One reason it’s hard to prognosticate is that we’re so divided between rural and urban. Case in point: All 34 purely urban districts are now held by Democrats. I go to the polls knowing 70% or more in my county will vote Republican. But in another part of the state, in a place where they never see the horizon for all the buildings, they vote overwhelmingly Democrat. We mix less than ever. That makes it hard to get an objective look at the overall picture. You can’t see it from street-level, but it also gets fuzzy from too high up.
One silver lining: the 40+ Republicans exiting tend to be unreliable NeverTrump/GOPe types. Replacing one of them with a Democrat doesn’t change much except committee leaderships, and the fact that the Democrat will stab you in the front instead of the back. So the smaller GOP membership should also be more loyal and reliable. Also, some of the new Democrats ran on Trump-friendly platforms. They may have been lying (McCaskill in Missouri ran desperate ads like that which were shameless lies), but it’s possible that some will be amenable to bipartisan measures if the division is small.
Another: Democrats led by Pelosi, Waters, and some of their new radicals are likely to double-down on stupid and self-destruct. Liberals are already demanding that they subpoena Trump’s tax returns and fill up the next two years with endless investigations. Because they always project, they can’t accept that Donald Trump isn’t as corrupt as they are, so they’re convinced that if they just investigate Bad Orange Man enough they can find the magic spell that will make him disappear. Anyone old enough to remember when Americans got tired of Republicans investigating Clinton knows how that goes.