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House Democrats fall way short in disappointing night

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMissouri woman seen with Pelosi sign charged in connection with Capitol riots Boebert communications director resigns amid Capitol riot: report Revising the pardon power — let the Speaker and Congress have voices MORE (D-Calif.) and her invigorated caucus charged into Tuesday with an energized base, a sharp fundraising advantage and hopes to flip anywhere from five to 15 Republican seats on election night. Instead, it was the Republicans who scored big — at least in the early counting — knocking out at least a half dozen vulnerable Democrats with several more clinging to the ropes.

It was a reversal of fortunes for the Democrats, who had led big in the polls and the money race and were betting that President TrumpDonald TrumpFacebook temporarily bans ads for weapons accessories following Capitol riots Sasse, in fiery op-ed, says QAnon is destroying GOP Section 230 worked after the insurrection, but not before: How to regulate social media MORE at the top of the ticket would be a drag on GOP lawmakers all the way down the ballot. With gushing optimism, Democrats were expecting Tuesday night would give them a chance to pad their 232-197 majority next year.

“We're well-positioned to have a good night,” Rep. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosFive centrist Democrats oppose Pelosi for Speaker in tight vote LIVE COVERAGE: House votes to name Speaker AOC v. Pelosi: Round 12? MORE (Ill.), head of the Democrats’ campaign arm, told reporters hours before polls closed Tuesday.  

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As the sun came up Wednesday morning, however, there appeared few bright spots for Bustos’s party.

While Democrats will retain their majority, a handful of their front-line members — incumbents facing the toughest races — had been defeated. And after boasting about how they’d expanded the map and were playing “deep into Trump country,” they’d failed to pick off even a single House Republican running for reelection. Democrats did manage to pick up a pair of GOP-held open seats in North Carolina, where redistricting had made the districts much bluer, and a third in Georgia after the retirement of vulnerable GOP Rep. Rob WoodallWilliam (Rob) Robert WoodallMcCarthy guarantees GOP will take back House in 2022 Rundown of the House seats Democrats, GOP flipped on Election Day Bustos won't seek to chair DCCC again in wake of 2020 results MORE.

The spate of Democratic losses were not limited to any one geographic region. In rural Minnesota, Rep. Collin PetersonCollin Clark PetersonOn The Trail: The political losers of 2020 OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump admin to sell oil leases at Arctic wildlife refuge before Biden takes office |Trump administration approves controversial oil testing method in Gulf of Mexico | Rep. Scott wins House Agriculture Committee gavel Rep. David Scott wins House Agriculture Committee gavel MORE (D), a 15-term veteran and chairman of the Agriculture Committee, was clobbered by the state’s former lieutenant governor, who’d linked Peterson to the liberal Pelosi.  

In the suburbs of Oklahoma City, Rep. Kendra HornKendra Suzanne HornThe US's investment in AI is lagging, we have a chance to double it What should Biden do with NASA and the Artemis Program? Here are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year MORE (D), a first-term moderate, was defeated by Republican Stephanie Bice, a state senator, in one of the country’s most contested races. 

On New Mexico’s southern border, Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D), a 36-year-old centrist also in her first term, fell to Yvette Herrell, a former state legislator, in a rematch of 2018. 

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And in South Carolina, first-term Rep. Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamWe lost in November — we're proud we didn't take corporate PAC money Chamber of Commerce slams GOP effort to challenge Biden's win Coalition of 7 conservative House Republicans says they won't challenge election results MORE (D) was ousted by state Rep. Nancy Mace (R).

An early surprise on election night — and early bad news for Democrats — was the defeat of two first-term Democrats in Florida’s Miami-Dade County: Reps. Debbie Mucarsel-PowellDebbie Mucarsel-PowellTrump, Florida complicate Biden approach to Cuba The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Coast-to-coast fears about post-holiday COVID-19 spread The Memo: Democrats see warning signs beyond 2020 MORE and Donna ShalalaDonna Edna ShalalaBiden's new challenge: Holding Trump accountable Trump, Florida complicate Biden approach to Cuba Florida Rep.-elect Elvira Salazar tests positive for COVID-19 MORE, the former Health and Human Services secretary under President Clinton. Cuban Americans, a powerful voting bloc in South Florida, broke overwhelming for President Trump, helping to hand Republicans the Sunshine State and the pair of House seats. 

“Part of it is incorrect assumptions about how minority voters will perform based on previous elections. Democrats can no longer take Black and Latino voters for granted,” said former Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloThe Memo: Historic vote leaves Trump more isolated than ever The Memo: GOP and nation grapple with what comes next House Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members MORE (R-Fla.), a Cuban American who previously represented one of the Miami seats.

Symbolic of the tough night suffered by the Democrats, even Bustos on Wednesday morning was trailing her GOP opponent, although plenty of absentee ballots remain to be counted and Democrats have cautioned the public not to jump to conclusions about race results before every vote has been tallied. Bustos hails from a largely rural district won by Trump in 2016, and the race was predicted to be close heading in. 

While votes were still being counted Wednesday morning in races around the country, an additional number of Democratic incumbents were trailing or locked in a tight races, including Abby FinkenauerAbby Lea FinkenauerChamber of Commerce slams GOP effort to challenge Biden's win Iowa losses underscore Democrats' struggles with attracting rural voters Here are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year MORE (Iowa), TJ Cox (Calif.), Anthony Brindisi (N.Y.) and Max RoseMax RoseWe lost in November — we're proud we didn't take corporate PAC money COVID-19 is wild card as Pelosi faces tricky Speaker vote Sunday Yang files to open campaign account for NYC mayor MORE (N.Y.), a former Army Ranger representing Staten Island.

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House Republicans, long criticized for the small number of women in their ranks, picked up seats by running female candidates against Democratic incumbents. At least five GOP women will be part of the freshman class; Republicans had added just one woman in 2018.

The devastating night for Democrats is sure to prompt plenty of head scratching about their campaign strategy, including questions about the accuracy of their polling and decisions to go on the offensive in districts where Trump won handily, rather than dedicating resources to more moderate districts. 

It also presents a new dilemma for Pelosi, who’s expected to return as Speaker next year and was hoping to cushion her comfortable majority in preparation for what is expected to be a tough cycle for Democrats in 2022.