Democrats seized control of the House on Tuesday from the Republican Party in a suburban revolt that saw more than two dozen seats flip from red to blue. But the outcome stopped short of the “blue wave” victory that many Democrats had been hoping for.
With the Republicans retaining control of the Senate, the mixed verdict reflected the deep divide in the American electorate.
Republicans retained their House seats in blue-collar and rural districts where President Donald Trump‘s aggressive talk on immigration played well. But Democrats wrested control of seats from the GOP in suburban districts where college-educated voters rejected Trump’s warnings of a migrant “invasion.”
A record number of women ran for Congress, many of them Democrats. Overall, women voters favored congressional Democratic candidates — with fewer than 4 in 10 voting for Republicans, according to VoteCast, a nationwide survey of more than 115,000 voters and about 20,000 nonvoters — conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago. In suburban areas where key House races were decided, female voters skewed significantly toward Democrats by a nearly 10-point margin.
As of Wednesday morning, some 14 races were too close to call, leaving the Democrats holding a 28-seat majority. Democrats have won 222 and the Republicans 199, with winners undetermined in 14 races, according to NBC News.
The road to a House majority ran through a few dozen districts that included suburban regions that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Democrats flipped seats in suburban districts outside of Washington, Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago and Denver. Democrats also reclaimed a handful of blue-collar districts carried by both former President Barack Obama and Trump.
The path to a majority
Flipping control of the House meant picking up a net gain of 23 seats, but that also meant holding on to five seats where Republicans put up strong showings. Of those, Minnesota’s 8th and Pennsylvania’ 14th did flip from blue to red. Another Democratic seat, Minnesota’s 1st, was too close to call Wednesday.
The most likely gains for Democrats were expected in 18 districts held by Republicans, including four in Pennsylvania, where a recent change in district boundaries sent incumbents of both parties scrambling for safety. As of Wednesday, 16 of those districts had flipped to blue as expected.
The vote was too close to call in Washington’s 8th District, an open seat in Seattle’s suburbs where newcomer Democrat Kim Schrier was in a dead heat race with Republican Dino Rossi. Another flip Democrats have been looking for – retiring Republican Darell Issa’s seat in California’s 49th District – was also too close to call.
In their bid to take the House, Democrats faced something of a “red wall,” especially in districts deeper in Trump country. But there were exceptions: in Kansas, for example, Democrat Sharice Davids beat a GOP incumbent to become the first gay Native American woman elected to the House.
Among the districts considered toss-ups, Democrats had picked up 11 seats as of Wednesday. But they failed to flip eight others, including Kentucky’s 6th, where one of the party’s top recruits, retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, lost her bid to oust to three-term Republican Rep. Andy Barr.
Another 10 of those toss-up races were too close to call as of Wednesday morning. Democrats picked up one seat that had been expected to remain in Republican hands. South Carolina’s 1st District, which includes Charleston, became open after incumbent Republican Mark Sanford lost his primary there. That helped provide an opening for Democrat Joe Cunningham who defeated Republican candidate Katie Arrington.
Despite their success in regaining control of the House, Democrats’ winning streak stopped short of the “blue wave” many had been hoping for, with Republicans apparently increasing their majority in the Senate. Four Senate races remained too close to call on Wednesday.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.