Five takeaways from a divisive midterm election

Months of speculation and rumination collided with reality on Tuesday as Democrats secured a long-sought majority in the House while Republicans tightened their grip on the Senate.

Election Day did not unfold exactly as either party had hoped. Democrats failed to hold on to several key Senate seats, while Republicans were ultimately unable to keep their losses in the House below the 23-seat threshold that Democrats needed to win the chamber.

But there were bright spots for the parties, as well. Democrats made gains in many of the suburban districts they had sought to pick up, while Republicans consolidated their support in deep-red states, like North Dakota and Indiana.

Here are five takeaways from the election night.

Florida falls short of Democrats’ expectations

Election Day in Florida wasn’t all that Democrats had hoped for.

As voters headed to the polls on Tuesday, party strategists and officials were bullish, not just on their chances in several key House races, but in their prospects of retaking the governor’s mansion for the first time in two decades.

But as the vote count came in, their expectations went unmet. Andrew Gillum, the progressive mayor of Tallahassee whose gubernatorial bid had captured the hearts of Democrats, ultimately conceded to Republican Ron DeSantis. He trailed by only one point.

Likewise, in Florida’s ultra-competitive Senate race, Republican Gov. Rick Scott appeared to be headed for a narrow win over incumbent Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William Nelson2020 party politics in Puerto Rico There is no winning without Latinos as part of your coalition Dem 2020 candidates court Puerto Rico as long nomination contest looms MORE (D-Fla.), bringing a close to the three-term Democrat’s Senate career.

Florida offered good news for Democrats as well. The party’s nominee in Florida’s 27th District, Donna Shalala, won her race to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-LehtinenIleana Carmen Ros-LehtinenComstock joins K Street firm Yoder, Messer land on K Street Ex-GOP lawmaker from Washington joins lobbying firm MORE. And Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell edged out Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trey Gowdy joins Fox News as a contributor GOP rep will ‘probably’ support measure to back Paris climate pact MORE (R-Fla.) from his South Florida seat.

But another toss-up race in the state’s 15th District went to Republican Ross Spano. Meanwhile, the GOP candidates beat back challenges in three other districts that Democrats had once seen as competitive, frustrating the party’s hopes for a blue wave in the Sunshine State.

Democrats make gains in suburbs

When Democrats set out to reclaim a House majority, they knew their path would take them through suburban districts in states like Virginia, Pennsylvania and Minnesota.

On Tuesday, they laid claim to such districts.

One of the first major gains for the party came in Northern Virginia, where Democrat Jennifer Wexton ousted Rep. Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockGOP lawmaker introduces bill to stop revolving door Ex-lawmakers face new scrutiny over lobbying Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign MORE (R) from the state’s 10th District, which includes the western suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Hours later, Virginia’s 7th District, which includes the Richmond suburbs and vast stretches of rural country, flipped for Democrat Abigail Spanberger.

Among the other suburban districts to go for Democrats on Tuesday were Florida’s 26th District, where Mucarsel-Powell edged out Curbelo, and Minnesota’s 3rd District, where Democrat Dean Phillips defeated Rep. Erik PaulsenErik Philip PaulsenLawmakers beat lobbyists at charity hockey game The 8 House Republicans who voted against Trump’s border wall Minnesota New Members 2019 MORE (R).

Democrats’ support in these suburban districts has largely been driven by dissatisfaction with President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE among moderates, women and college-educated voters. Those voters ended up being a key part of the party’s coalition on Tuesday.

Rockstar Democrats have a bad night

A handful of Democratic hopefuls barreled into the general election with seemingly larger-than-life profiles that captured valuable media attention and raised the hopes of their supporters.

But a number of them came up short on Election Day.

In Florida, Gillum, who had drawn comparisons to former President Obama and excited his party’s liberal base, conceded to DeSantis after it became clear that he could not make up the 1-point difference that separated them.

And in Texas, Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) fell to Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzEl Chapo's lawyer fires back at Cruz: 'Ludicrous' to suggest drug lord will pay for wall Democrats have a chance of beating Trump with Julian Castro on the 2020 ticket Poll shows competitive matchup if O’Rourke ran for Senate again MORE (R), despite bringing in record-shattering fundraising hauls and developing a fanbase that stretched far beyond the borders of his state. He still managed to keep the race close, trailing his Republican opponent by only a couple hundred thousand votes.

The final results of the governor’s race in Georgia remain less clear. Hours after polls closed, the race remained uncalled, with Democrat Stacey Abrams trailing Republican Brian Kemp by 3 points in the vote tally. Her campaign said in the early hours of Wednesday morning that they expect a recount.

Virginia solidifies blue-state status

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) stormed to victory in Virginia’s 2017 governor’s race, which was the first major sign that Democrats could have a shot at regaining the House majority.

A year later, Virginia played a critical role in helping to deliver Democrats the lower chamber, while also solidifying the swing seat as a blue state.

Wexton cruised to victory over Comstock in the D.C. suburbs, which was viewed as a must-win for Democrats.

Northern Virginia has turned solidly blue thanks to anti-Trump backlash in the suburbs that started back in 2016 with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRoger Stone shares, quickly deletes Instagram photo of federal judge on his case Barack, Michelle Obama expected to refrain from endorsing in 2020 Dem primary: report Why the national emergency? A second term may be Trump’s only shield from an indictment MORE’s double-digit win and continued with Northam’s romp in 2017.

Plus, Democrats had a good night by picking up GOP-leaning seats in Trump districts that further emphasized the party’s ability to expand the battlefield.

Democrat Elaine Luria, a retired U.S. Navy commander, narrowly defeated Rep. Scott TaylorScott William TaylorEx-GOP Rep. Ryan Costello joins group pushing carbon tax Virginia New Members 2019 Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — First lady's office pushes for ouster of national security aide | Trump taps retired general as ambassador to Saudis | Mattis to visit border troops | Record number of female veterans to serve in Congress MORE (R-Va.), while former CIA agent Spanberger eked out a win over Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.).

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Overnight Defense: Trump declares border emergency | .6B in military construction funds to be used for wall | Trump believes Obama would have started war with North Korea | Pentagon delivers aid for Venezuelan migrants Kaine asks Shanahan if military families would be hurt by moving .6B for border wall MORE (D-Va.) cruised to victory over Republican Corey Stewart, depriving Republicans of a strong top of the ticket contender that could have possibly given House members some coattail effects.

It was a good night for Senate Republicans

Senate Republicans had a good night even as historical headwinds cost their party the majority in the House.

As of early Wednesday morning Republicans had flipped Democrat-held seats in Missouri, Indiana and North Dakota. They also appeared to have toppled Nelson's seat in Florida, though the senator's campaign pushed back on reports that he had conceded the race.

The outcome will give Republicans at least 52 seats in January. They could easily expand their majority, despite losing Nevada, if they win the Mississippi runoff election on Nov. 27 or hold their seats in Arizona and Nevada or flip Montana, which had not been called as of 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

Republicans keeping their Senate majority will give Trump a firewall in Congress against emboldened House Democrats, who have pledged to be a thorn in the side of the administration if they won the House majority.

The red-state wins come after Trump barnstormed key races to back GOP candidates in the waning days of the midterm election.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Trump should beware the 'clawback' Congress Juan Williams: America needs radical solutions MORE (R-Ky.) took a victory lap even as some races remained uncalled, with his campaign account tweeting out a GIF of the GOP leader smiling.

McConnell and Trump spoke on Tuesday night amid the favorable election results, a spokesman for the Senate GOP leader confirmed, and McConnell thanked the president for his help in picking up seats.