US midterm results 2018: For Donald Trump, historic turnout and Senate majority is opening battle for 2020

Democrats seized the House majority from US President Donald Trump's Republican Party on Tuesday in a suburban revolt that threatened what's left of the president's governing agenda. But Republicans gained ground in the Senate, preserved key governorships and are celebrating historic turnout numbers while beating back a much hyped "blue wave" that never fully materialized.

With 218 seats needed for a majority in the House, Democrats won 219 and the Republicans 193, with winners undetermined in 23 races. Democrats won the Republican-held seats in Florida, Kansas, Colorado, New York, Virginia, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. Democrats also gained seven new seats in gubernatorial contests.

In the Senate, Republicans expanded their majority, which Trump declared a “tremendous success”. Republicans now have 51 seats and Democrats, 43, and there are two independents.

File image of US president Donald Trump. AP

File image of US president Donald Trump. AP

Moreover, a record number of women also won races across the US, and candidates of colour and LGBT people broke barriers. Women won at least 85 seats in the House, making a new record. The House also got its first two Muslim women. Massachusetts elected its first black congresswoman, and Tennessee got its first female senator.

In locking down a majority, Democratic candidates flipped seats in several suburban districts outside Washington, Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago, Denver and Dallas, which were considered prime targets for turnover because they were won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. The Democrats made only slight inroads in Trump country, where they tried to win back white working-class voters.

The mixed verdict in the first nationwide election of Trump's presidency indicate the limits of his hardline immigration rhetoric in US politics.

The new Democratic House majority will end the Republican Party's dominance in Washington for the final two years of Trump's first term with major questions looming about healthcare, immigration and government spending.

Results won't bring Trump down

Even after Democrats seized the House of Representatives on Tuesday, the reality show-host-turned-president failed to respond with humility. Instead, he was triumphant.

He tweeted that the midterm elections — in which Democrats defeated his Republicans to control the lower house of Congress for the first time in eight years — were "a tremendous success".

His enthusiasm after losing half of Congress is not as unrealistic, as the Republicans expanded their Senate majority, while fighting with the House may yet be to his advantage when it comes to his own reelection in two years.

Trump is a president who since his shock 2016 election win against heavy favourite Hillary Clinton has repeatedly torn up the expected script to write his own.

Subpoena powers

Controlling the House means controlling committees with subpoena power. This will give Democrats the authority to delve deep into Trump's personal and professional missteps, including investigations into links to Russia, as well as his long-withheld tax returns.

The top Democrat on the judiciary committee, Jerry Nadler, told MSNBC's Ari Melber immediately after the election that "we'll use subpoena power if we have to, when we have to".

However, any attempt to impeach Trump is likely to run headlong into resistance in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Not a politician famous for being able to take criticism, Trump can be expected to respond blow for blow. Washington, mockingly known as "the swamp", may be in store for some unprecedented partisan ugliness.

2020 election

Conflict with the Democrats could simply fuel Trump's real goal of reelection in 2020.

The Trump base will have no problem believing him when he says that Pelosi and her Democrats are to blame for every ill in the country.

And White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders noted another detail from the midterms that will quietly please Trump — candidates he supported in election rallies did "very well tonight".

In other words, the midterms are just the opening battle of the 2020 election — and Trump thinks he might just get back to winning.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Nov 07, 2018 20:08:54 IST

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