A blue wave that washed over Republican-held suburbs across the country in last week’s midterm elections has reshaped the nation’s political map.
Deep dissatisfaction with President TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE and an apparent realignment, both political and geographic, among suburban voters helped Democrats reclaim control of the House of Representatives, where the party won more Republican-held seats than in any midterm election since Watergate.
Now, even before the final races have been decided, Democrats are plotting new forays into what has long been seemingly invincible Republican territory.
At the same time, Republicans are eyeing some districts held by Democrats still undergoing their new member orientation.
“We’re going to have to be more focused on protecting our front-line candidates,” said Rep. Denny HeckDennis (Denny) Lynn HeckExclusive: Guccifer 2.0 hacked memos expand on Pennsylvania House races Heck enjoys second political wind Incoming lawmaker feeling a bit overwhelmed MORE (D-Wash.), one of several candidates running to become the next chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “So many members coming in from those swing districts, it’s going to be a higher priority.”
The new Congress will include at least 29 Democrats who represent districts Trump won in 2016, pending the final outcomes of uncalled races in Maine and Utah.
At least 37 Democrats won election on Tuesday by less than 10 percentage points, 21 of whom hold districts Trump won.
Only four Republicans — Reps. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickFifth House Republican comes out in support of bipartisan infrastructure bill Democratic leaders racing toward Monday infrastructure vote House GOP to whip against bipartisan infrastructure bill MORE (Pa.), Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdFirst Democrat jumps into key Texas House race to challenge Gonzales Will the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Congress drawn into pipeline cyberattack, violence in Israel MORE (Texas), John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoWHIP LIST: How House Democrats say they'll vote on infrastructure bill Emboldened Trump takes aim at GOP foes McCarthy-allied fundraising group helps Republicans who voted to impeach Trump MORE (N.Y.) and David ValadaoDavid Goncalves ValadaoThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble Emboldened Trump takes aim at GOP foes McCarthy-allied fundraising group helps Republicans who voted to impeach Trump MORE (Calif.) — hold districts that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHeller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 MORE won in 2016, pending final results in a few other districts.
But a whopping 42 Republicans won their reelection bids by margins of less than 10 percentage points, and 23 of those members won by fewer than 5 points.
Those ranks include battle-tested incumbents Fitzpatrick and Reps. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisGOP rep presses Capitol Police Board on outstanding security recommendations House approves John Lewis voting rights measure Partisan fight over vaccine mandates moves to House MORE (R-Ill.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.), all of whom won close elections this year.
It also includes new members, Reps.-elect Mark Harris (R-N.C.), Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.) and Chip Roy (R-Texas), who claimed open seats in tight races.
And it includes members who survived unexpectedly close races where national Democratic groups did not spend big money. Reps. Kenny MarchantKenny Ewell MarchantTexas House Democrat who fled state announces congressional bid Republican Van Duyne wins race for Texas House seat Cook Political Report shifts 8 more House races toward Democrats MORE (R-Texas), Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulHouse passes bill to compensate 'Havana syndrome' victims McCaul pressures State to formalize ties to outside evacuation groups Biden threatens more sanctions on Ethiopia, Eritrea over Tigray conflict MORE (R-Texas), Pete OlsonPeter (Pete) Graham OlsonHouse Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit Republican Fort Bend County Sheriff wins Texas House seat 10 bellwether House races to watch on election night MORE (R-Texas), Ann WagnerAnn Louise WagnerConservative women's group endorses Sarah Huckabee Sanders for Arkansas governor FOSTA is model for reforming Section 230 Navy admiral criticizes defense contractors over lobbying efforts MORE (R-Mo.) and Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonFifth House Republican comes out in support of bipartisan infrastructure bill Democratic leaders racing toward Monday infrastructure vote WHIP LIST: How House Democrats say they'll vote on infrastructure bill MORE (R-Mich.) all won by 5 points or fewer, despite facing underfunded and little-known Democratic challengers.
It is those members, who may not have expected such close races, who some Republicans now worry about.
“The new guys who won, they’re going to be fine,” said Tom Davis, the former Virginia congressman who ran the National Republican Congressional Committee. “It’s the veterans who won these close races in those suburban districts that Trump won.”
Davis pointed to 2008, when Democrats made big gains in a presidential year by beating seemingly entrenched incumbents Reps. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.), Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), Tim WalbergTimothy (Tim) Lee WalbergEquilibrium/ Sustainability — Presented by NextEra Energy — West Coast wildfires drive East Coast air quality alerts House passes bill requiring EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water GOP divided on anti-Biden midterm message MORE (R-Mich.) and Virgil Goode (R-Va.), all of whom had survived closer-than-expected contests in the Democratic wave of 2006.
Tuesday’s results gave Democrats hope that they have made serious inroads among suburban women with college educations, voters who may have been loath to vote for Clinton in 2016 but who have since soured on Trump.
In the midterm elections, Democrats picked up at least 14, and likely 15, of the 23 Republican-held districts where more than 40 percent of women have a college degree. Democrats won at least four, and likely all five, of the Republican-held districts where more than half of women have a college degree.
Many of the Democratic candidates who took those most highly educated seats were women, like Reps.-elect Lucy McBath (D-Ga.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) and Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (D-Texas).
Though Trump has insisted he is not to blame for the Republican losses in the suburbs, there is ample evidence he was the focal point of voter anger.
Bruce Mehlman, a Republican lobbyist who closely studies election results, pointed to exit poll results that showed a huge number of voters cast ballots either in support of or opposition to Trump, more than those who cast their ballots with George W. Bush or Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTop nuclear policy appointee removed from Pentagon post: report Prosecutors face legal challenges over obstruction charge in Capitol riot cases Biden makes early gains eroding Trump's environmental legacy MORE in mind during their midterm elections.
“More people voted to support Trump in this election than voted to support Bush in ’02. That was after 9/11!” Mehlman said. “The Republican top of the ticket is known, baked in and understood. In a midterm, everybody’s running against the president and there isn’t an obvious Democratic foil.”
Trump landed with a particularly hard thud in suburban districts. An analysis of congressional districts by CityLab, overlaid with election results, show Democrats won the suburban battleground that has become the fulcrum of American politics.
In the new Congress, Democrats will hold about 70 percent of all suburban districts across the country, and just 19 percent of rural districts.
The new Democratic majority has also consolidated the party’s hold on coastal states. About 150 of the 230 or so Democrats who will sit in the next Congress come from states on the Pacific or Atlantic coasts.
If Rep. Mimi WaltersMarian (Mimi) Elaine WaltersSix takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections Former GOP Rep. Walters joins energy company GOP plots comeback in Orange County MORE (R-Calif.) falls behind in late vote counting, the new Congress will include only two Republicans — Reps. Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerThe Memo: Never Trumpers sink into gloom as Gonzalez bows out Kinzinger says Trump 'winning' because many Republicans 'have remained silent' Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE (R-Wash.) and Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungRepublicans are the 21st-century Know-Nothing Party OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden suspends Arctic oil leases issued under Trump | Experts warn US needs to better prepare for hurricane season | Progressives set sights on Civilian Climate Corps Overnight Energy: Biden admin backs Trump approval of major Alaska drilling project | Senate Republicans pitch 8 billion for infrastructure | EPA to revise Trump rule limiting state authority to block pipelines MORE (R-Alaska) — whose districts touch the Pacific.
Heck said Democrats would face a battle in maintaining their gains two years down the road, but they start off with an edge.
“Our biggest gains were in suburbia, but we competed well in some rural districts,” Heck said. “It’s always less expensive to protect a seat with an incumbent than it is to defeat an incumbent.”