How Republicans “Trumped the wave” and won the election: The Blackburn case
Tuesday night was not a Republican victory on all fronts, nor was it a sweeping one for the Democrats. The Democrats saw a net gain of 30 seats in the House, and even managed to pick up crucial seats in the Senate like in Nevada, where incumbent Republican Dean Heller was unseated by Democrat Jacky Rosen. Despite all this, the Republicans still managed to extend their hold on the Senate by a few seats.
The Republicans did beat the odds to “win” this election and races like Tennessee show us exactly how they did it.
The Senate race in Tennessee saw a devout Trump supporter replace retiring incumbent Bob Corker, who had his fair share of issues with the President. The President had called Corker “incompetent,” while Corker himself publicly stated his concern that Trump was leading the US “on the path to World War III.” This strife with the President actually saw Republican opponent Marsha Blackburn take a significant lead in the pre-primary polls over Corker, which may have led to his retirement despite several GOP senators urging him to run.
While FiveThirtyEight rated Corker voting with Trump 84.2 percent of the time, newly elected Blackburn is rated higher at 91.7 percent. It may not seem like much of a difference, especially in a state that Trump carried in 2016 by 30 percentage points. However, considering the backlash the President has faced prior to this midterm suggests that Blackburn’s victory meant much more than the numbers suggested.
Polls had actually forecasted Democratic candidate Phil Bredesen taking a lead a month before Election Day. At one point, the Cook Political Report had even labeled the race a “toss-up.” Clearly, even in deep red states, the effects of the President’s actions were setting up a “blue wave.” What followed as the competitiveness of the race became clear was Vice President Pence attending two fundraisers and two public events with Blackburn, and the President himself attending a fundraiser and rally to drum up support.
Perhaps owing to this, the so-called “toss-up” race was handily by Blackburn, by an overwhelming 10 percentage points. The results meant much more than a Republican replacing one of their own kind. In effect, Trump was able to displace a politician who questioned his power with a loyal supporter. While Democrats celebrated their victory in the House, Trump won the election by strengthening his grip on the party for at least the remainder of his term.
Voters had a chance to repudiate Trump, but the results were far from an overwhelming tide. A split Congress now means political gridlock over the next 2 years. This hits Democrats harder than Republicans, as they can only hope to stall Republican legislation. So, who really benefited from this midterm? The President tightened his grip on power, and potentially can use this as a pretext to intensify accusations against those who oppose him.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.