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Winners and losers from election night 2018

© Sarah Rice/ Guests cheer as the projections roll in in favor of Sen. Elizabeth Warren at the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s election night party in Boston on Tuesday. (Sarah Rice for The Washington Post)

By Aaron Blake, The Washington Post

The 2018 election is nearly in the books: Democrats are on track to take the House, and Republicans will keep the Senate. And there was, and will be, plenty of shouting.

Below, some winners and losers.

WINNERS

Democrats

Republicans will pitch this as a split decision, because they held the Senate. It’s not; the Senate map was highly favorable to them, meaning maintaining control of it was expected. Democrats just took over a chamber of Congress, and that’s a big night for them, period.

Speaker(?) Nancy Pelosi

Good things (probably) come to those who wait. It’s rare that a former speaker sticks around for as long as Pelosi did after losing the gavel in 2010. And it seemed especially odd that she did, given how tough we knew it would be for Democrats to win back the House this decade.

But she kept raising big money for her side, and she stuck around long enough. Now she just needs to make sure there aren’t enough Democrats unwilling to vote for her to prevent her from actually becoming speaker again. It will be tough to stop her, though.

Mitch McConnell

It may not have been a huge surprise that Republicans held the Senate, but they did it with relative ease, meaning Republicans can keep confirming President Trump’s judges. And it will likely be easier now, given the GOP’s majority looks as though it will expand slightly.

Oh, and the bonus for the Senate majority leader: Democrat Amy McGrath’s loss in Kentucky’s 6th district. The highly touted candidate and top fundraiser would instantly have been considered a potential candidate for McConnell’s seat in 2020.

Florida’s felons

Amendment 4 passed in Florida, restoring voting rights for convicted felons. That’s both huge from a civil rights standpoint — especially given such ballot initiatives in Florida need to clear a 60 percent threshold — and from an electoral one. About 9 percent of the voting-age population in Florida is comprised of felons, and many of them are racial minorities. That could change elections (likely in Democrats’ favor) for years to come.

Democratic diversity

Colorado’s Jared Polis became the first openly gay man elected governor, and Democrats elected two Muslim women (Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar) and two Native American women (Kansas’s Sharice Davids and New Mexico’s Deb Haaland), among other firsts. They also may set the record for women elected.

John James

The Michigan Republican Senate candidate got little buzz, but he was actually closer to unseating Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) than the GOP was to holding the state’s governor’s seat. As of press time, he was losing by just six points.

James, an African-American Iraq veteran and conservative businessman, didn’t get much national backing this time. He might in a future run.

Sherrod Brown 2020

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) pretty easily dispatched Rep. James B. Renacci (R-Ohio), despite the GOP winning Ohio’s governor’s race. And then, in his victory speech, Brown left little doubt he’s already eyeing the next prize: a presidential run.

“Let our country — our nation’s citizens, our Democratic Party, my fellow elected officials all over the country — let them all cast their eyes toward the heartland, to the industrial Midwest, to our Great Lakes state,” Brown said. He concluded: “That is the message coming out of Ohio in 2018, and that is the blueprint for our nation in 2020.” He’s running?

LOSERS

Beto 2020 (and beyond)

No, things didn’t go according to plan for Texas Democrats’ new supposed savior. They haven’t won a statewide race in 24 years — the longest such streak in the country — and that didn’t change Tuesday.

But Beto O’Rourke did raise a metric ton of money, and even a close loss (he trailed by just 3 points with 80 percent of precincts in) is likely to keep him on the radar. Given the very long list of Democrats expected to run for president, why not the guy who just made Texas competitive? He’s got to be tempted.

Beto 2018, and its donors

A loss is a loss, and we shouldn’t pretend it’s not. It’s got to be especially deflating for those who invested so much hope in O’Rourke’s candidacy — and for the people who invested their hard-earned cash — a record $70 million worth of it. Democrats have a way of focusing on shiny objects, and this shiny object didn’t prevail.

“It’s the economy stupid”

The Trump era has forced us to reevaluate many political assumptions, and we can now add this Clinton-era adage to the list. The idea that the economy is the most important thing at all times doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when the unemployment rate is 3.7 percent and 8 in 10 voters rate the economy positively, but the party in power loses a chamber.

The economy almost certainly helped Republicans, but it wasn’t enough to save them, either because of external factors or because Trump was so focused on other things.

Trump’s immigration strategy

It was fashionable to say that Trump’s fear-based, anti-caravan strategy was ugly, but likely effective. And it might have been in Senate races in clearly red territory. But it didn’t seem to do much of anything to save the House, which was the more endangered chamber. Exit polls showed about half of voters regarded Trump’s rhetoric as “too tough.”

In the end, it seemed more that Trump was just doing what he knew, rather than what would save one-half of Congress.

Voting against Kavanaugh

One vote can be oversold, but it’s notable that Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) cast some of the most surprising votes against Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination — after voting for Neil M. Gorsuch — while Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) voted for Kavanaugh and did just fine in the Trumpiest state in the country.

Again, that vote may not have sealed the deal, but Donnelly and Heitkamp both underperformed expectations. Perhaps those votes reminded conservatives of the big downside of having a Democrat in the Senate.

Democrats’ next generation of stars

It wasn’t just O’Rourke losing a high-profile, tough race. Andrew Gillum lost for Florida governor. Stacey Abrams appeared likely to lose in Georgia’s governor’s race without even making a runoff. And Randy Bryce, the man Democrats fell in love with as a foil to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (you know: Iron Stache), lost the open-seat race for Ryan’s seat by double-digits.

These might have been the four most buzzy Democratic candidates — in fact, they were the four cited by Esquire — and they all came up short.

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