GOP Gets Its Consolation Prize — a Bare-Bones House Majority

The much-hyped Republican “red wave” has proven a resounding bust, but the GOP has officially met its bare-minimum benchmark for this election: taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

On Wednesday, news networks projected that Republicans had picked up the 218 congressional seats necessary to command a majority in the chamber, thanks to victories in California races that had taken multiple days to count. The call came more than a week after the GOP’s speaker-in-waiting, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), told an Election Night crowd that the majority would officially be theirs the following morning.

While insiders had expected the battle for Senate control to play out for weeks, House control remained up in the air days after the upper chamber was called for Democrats.

After an unexpectedly strong performance, Democrats had spent the last week hoping that enough races would break their way to hold the House. But despite some serious upsets, Democrats could not overcome a mini-GOP wave that materialized in New York, and it will likely cost them the majority they have held for the last four years.

The remaining question is how many seats Republicans will get. If it is around 221, as is projected, it would be one of the narrowest House majorities in modern history.

The path to a GOP majority was surprising, but the fact that they flipped the chamber was widely expected. Democrats could only afford to lose five seats, and midterm elections are typically brutal for the party in power in Washington. Strategists in both parties had projected Republicans would pick up anywhere from 15 to 25 seats, giving them a comfortable House majority.

Instead, Republicans are on track to fall short of that target—a far cry from the vindicating slam dunk that their leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), had hyped repeatedly in the weeks leading up to the election.

While the GOP has hit 218, Democrats have disproportionately won in the most competitive battlegrounds and have even flipped some unexpected seats, including two in Ohio.

On Election Day, Democratic incumbents that were heavily targeted by the GOP kept winning, from Rep. Abigail Spanberger in suburban Virginia to Rep. Chris Pappas in New Hampshire.

The bad news continued for Republicans as Democratic incumbents held or flipped competitive seats in Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Ohio; by mid-afternoon, even Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), the far-right Trump ally, was in danger of losing a mostly safe seat. She will probably win, but Democrats did upset Joe Kent, a far-right candidate running in a purple Washington state district; they also held their most Trump-favoring district, in Maine, which Rep. Jared Golden (D) won safely.

But the defeat of Democratic incumbents in difficult districts, like Reps. Elaine Luria (D-VA), Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), and Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), pushed the party’s luck—which finally ran out in New York.

By the end of election week, the GOP had flipped four Democratic seats in the Empire State, including that of Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), the chairman of House Democrats’ campaign arm. The state’s chaotic redistricting process, which saw a Democratic gerrymander struck down and replaced with very friendly Republican lines, may have doomed Democrats, along with a weaker showing from the party’s statewide candidates.

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