The Republican Party has won back control of the House of Representatives, giving the creating a toehold to check President Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats despite a disappointing midterm election. Republicans are on track for one of the smallest Congressional majorities since the 2000 House of Representatives elections despite pre-election predictions that a red wave was coming. Instead, it took more than a week of vote-counting after Election Day for it to be clear the party had won the majority. And that majority could be difficult to manage for a Republican speaker next year. The decisive call came in a California race, with Congressman Mike Garcia being declared the winner in his reelection bid in the state’s 27th District over Democratic challenger Christy Smith. Redistricting in states like Florida, Tennessee, Texas, and Kentucky, open-seat victories and a surprisingly strong showing in New York State carried the Republicans back to power. But President Joe Biden’s middling approval ratings and a lackluster economy largely failed to propel Republican candidates over battle-tested Democratic members and a wider majority. In the end, only six Democratic incumbents fell.
In a statement on November 16 night, President Joe Biden congratulated House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is in line to be the next speaker, on the Republican victory: “I congratulate Leader McCarthy on Republicans winning the House majority, and am ready to work with House Republicans to deliver results for working families.” For his part, House Speaker-elect McCarthy talked about using the Republicans new power to contain the Biden administration. “Think for one moment. It is official,” he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “One party Democrat rule in Washington is finished. We have fired Nancy Pelosi.”
Democrats held out hope of keeping the House for part of the summer and fall, as voters vented fury at the Republican Party over the end of Roe v. Wade. But while the issue of abortion gave Democrats a boost with voters and helped even up what had been developing as a Republican year, it was not enough to halt the Republican parties gains entirely. Republicans needed to net only five seats to take control of the House. The party notched early victories on election night in Florida, where strong performances at the top of the ticket by Governor Ron DeSantis and Senator Marco Rubio, coupled with a new, aggressively gerrymandered congressional map, helped the Republicans add several seats.
Despite these early wins by the Republicans, the strength shown by the Florida Republicans did not translate over to many of the most competitive districts across the country. A number of endangered Democratic incumbents survived, including Congressmembers like Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, Angie Craig of Minnesota and Chris Pappas of New Hampshire, and the party captured open toss-up seats in states including Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Still, Republicans notched a banner victory over DCCC chairman Sean Patrick Maloney in upstate New York, one of several pickups in the state. Republican Marc Molinaro won a seat that included much of the turf he lost in a summer special election. And all of Long Island turned red as Republicans George Santos and Anthony D’Esposito captured open blue-leaning seats.
Additionally, the Republicans managed to flip seats in Virginia, where Jen Kiggans unseated Rep. Elaine Luria; Arizona where Eli Crane defeated Congressman Tom O’Halleran; New Jersey, where Tom Kean Jr. beat Congressman Tom Malinowski; and Iowa where Zach Nunn bested Congresswoman Cindy Axne. Republicans also picked up open seats in Arizona, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin. But most of those districts were seats that Democrats walked away from, thinking they had no shot in keeping them in 2022. Several of them ended up being among the closest contests. In Michigan, Republican John James, a highly touted recruit, beat an underfunded Democrat by less than 1 point. In Arizona, Republican Juan Ciscomani had a much closer than expected contest with Democrat Kirsten Engel. Both contests saw little to no outside spending by Democratic groups.
Democrats fought back in some places, not only limiting their losses but flipping Republican-held districts in Michigan and Washington State, two places where Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump lost in primaries. Democrats were able to beat the eventual far-right nominees in the general elections. Democratic candidates also felled Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Congresswoman Yvette Herrell (R-NM) in seats that got bluer thanks to redistricting.