Even through bleary eyes, I can see a blue wave

Embed from Getty Images

Well, I’ve stayed up, clicking refresh like a hyper-ventilated gerbil for the last six hours, so you didn’t have to….

The Democrats have comfortably won control of the House. The Republicans have gained ground in the Senate. The Democrats have so far flipped four governor’s mansions, including in Kansas, where Laura Kelly beat Kris Kobach.

Is it is a Blue wave? Taegan Goddard of Political Wire says it is, quoting some convincing figures. The New York Times estimates the Democrat vote margin, based on nationwide House votes, as +7.6%. These last elections were considered “waves”:

1994: R+7.1%
2006: D+8.0%
2010: R+7.2%
2014: R+5.7%

So, based on those figures, tonight’s results look comfortably blue wavey.

There have been a whole slew of “firsts” being elected. Many women, many veterans, minorities. We can look at some quite unexpected Democrat victories – for example in Kendra Horn in Oklahoma district 5. Abigail Spanberger’s victory in Virginia 7 was particularly gratifying.

We also saw some sanity returning to districting (what we call “boundary changes”) in Pennsylvania, and a successful ballot in Missouri which will see an independent demographer redrawing boundaries. You only have to watch the maps of House districts coming up on the screen for the last six hours, as I have done, to realise how crazy the shapes of some of the districts are. (See Governor Gerry of Massachusetts).

Yes, there were some disappointments. But it was good to hear Nancy Pelosi being able to make a very inspiring victory speech which emphasised healthcare and other kitchen table issues.

We’ve seen independents deserting Trump, and the suburban districts turning convincingly blue. We’ll see subpoenas flying and real scrutiny of Trump based on the Democrat House majority.

And we’ll see Trump’s tax returns (no doubt after a long legal battle) at last!

It’s been a very good night for the Democrats.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • Helen Dudden 7th Nov '18 - 7:13am

    Paul, so pleased that my fellow disabled colleagues have a vote! They got through long queues, rain and they voted!
    As the spread of Human Rights for disabled people, where ever you are.
    Sincere congratulations, you did it.
    Paul, the Twitter group I belong to, spreads all over world.

  • John Marriott 7th Nov '18 - 10:11am

    It would appear that your ‘blue wave’ is confined to the House of Representatives, Paul. However, as you rightly said in another thread, the way they elect the Senate is ‘a bit nuts’. Mind you, it’s not all perfect in the way ‘the House’ is elected either. Gerrymandering, as I mentioned in the same thread, is still alive and well over the pond.

    That said, you could argue that the voting for ‘the House’ is a better reflection of public opinion than electing two senators per state regardless of population. We could be in for a very interesting couple of years. Now the Democrats had better get down to finding an electable candidate for 2020.

  • David Evans 7th Nov '18 - 2:15pm

    The key measure that comes from these elections are those for the Senate. Here it looks like the Democrats will lose one or two which Donald Trump is portraying as a vindication. However, as these are state by state results, they can be mapped directly onto the electoral college for the presidency, and here it gets interesting. Not all states had votes this year, but most did and at a quick glance the Republicans lost Michigan, which he won in 2016 (16 college votes); Ohio Republicans lost (18 College Votes); Wisconsin likewise (10 college votes).

    Someone soon will do the results for all the states. That will give a clear result, but overall the Senate may be a loss compared to when they were last fought, but compared to 2016 – they look a lot better.

  • Innocent Bystander 7th Nov '18 - 2:40pm

    Whether it’s a ripple, wave or tsunami is a matter of opinion. I would have called it a little disappointing as the D’s were talking about a “double digit” swing weren’t they?
    The other issue I thought was at stake was the future of Trump. Wasn’t the accepted wisdom that, if there was a mid-term landslide, the R’s would dump DJT as fast as they could? Is that the sense now? Or has he done enough?

  • Matt (Bristol) 7th Nov '18 - 2:52pm

    I don’t believe this is a tribal ‘blue wave’, and particularly not one for the left of the Democrats.

    I believe, on what little evidence I can muster, that this is tactical split-ticketing and political cross-dressing from centrist Americans (particularly in wealthy urban areas) who want the moderate constitutional bipartisan government they are being denied by multiple factors including D.J.T., and the USA’s institutional barriers to a viable third party (yes, I’m looking at you, First Past The Post).

    I’m not saying that centrist constituency is ‘liberal’ in either US or UK terms, but we have the same problem over here. There is a sort of informed, moderate, ‘steady-as-she-goes’ voter-type who are unrepresented by the institutional parties, and are moving their votes around all the possible options, trying to find candidates who represent them, or at least trying to game the system – left a bit, right a bit, left again… (I’d personally use the word ‘constitutionalist’, in more-or-less the sense that Churchill used it in the 20s when he left the Liberals, to describe these people).

  • John Marriott 7th Nov '18 - 3:48pm

    It will be interesting whether the new Democrat majority in the House tries to be bipartisan or whether it just perpetuates gridlock. If it does, it might get the blame just as the Lib Dem’s did in 2015 but for the opposite of reasons. In some ways, if the Republicans had remained in complete control it might have given the opposition even more ammunition against Trump and his fellow travellers.

    Whatever happens, it makes for a couple of interesting years, both on Capitol Hill but in the race for the White House that begins now.

  • People are slightly missing the point with the Senate election compared to the House.

    It is a different BASELINE – 2012 against 2016 for the House and only a THIRD of seats up for election against ALL for the House. The Democrats actually won a greater proportion of SENATE seats 60% up for election (21 probably out of 35) against HOUSE seats about 52% (around 227 out of 435).

    So there was a “blue wave” in the Senate compared to 2016. And they probably would have made gains if the 2016 seats were up. It is just there was a greater “blue wave” in 2012 to which it is being compared to and seems also to have been a rather spectacular year for the Democrats in the Senate if not the House, leaving few seats for them to pick up even if they did spectacularly well. And it also depends exactly which states and candidates/incumbents are up for election.

    Figures by year from Wikipedia:
    Senate 2012 – Dem 21 seats – popular vote lead 12%
    Senate 2014 – Dem 12 seats – popular vote behind by 8% (California and New York not up for election)
    Senate 2016 – Dem 12 seats – popular vote lead by 11%

    House 2012 – Dem 201 seats – popular vote lead by 1%
    House 2014 – Dem 188 seats – popular vote behind by 6%
    House 2016 – Dem 194 seats – popular vote behind by 1%

    Trump will though win in 2020.

  • Helen Dudden 7th Nov '18 - 4:28pm

    One of the most important changes to come, from this election is Disabled Voting.
    It does seem strange to us in this country that this was not happening, there are other factors too, with working and medical treatment.

  • John Marriott 7th Nov '18 - 6:13pm

    I’ve just watched part of Trump’s press conference. Oh dear. It doesn’t augur well for future relations between Republicans and Democrats, let alone between the USA and its closest allies. The way he treated some of the media representatives was a chilling reminder of what could happen if you are knocking at a locked door. I just hope that it might have been a case of ‘battle fatigue’ on his part; but, with this current polarised state of US politics, if the President doesn’t show some magnanimity we could be in for at least two more years of gridlock on Capitol Hill.

  • One thing that always interests me about US congressional elections is the very large number of congressional districts (equivalent to a parliamentary constituency) that are uncontested with only one candidate on the ballot paper (or sometimes only two, both from the same party).

    Also I think it’s very difficult to draw extrapolation on how individual states vote in the state-wide senatorial and gubernatorial (state Governor) elections with how they might fare at a presidential election under the electoral college system

    Massachusetts, the most Democrat supporting state after Hawaii, returned a Republican governor yesterday (with the largest share of the vote of any governor elected yesterday). All of Massachusetts’ congressional districts elected a Democrat, half in unopposed races. Likewise in Vermont, a Republican governor returned, on the same day Bernie Sanders was returned as senator. The list of peculiarities is long.

    Lots of Americans vote for the candidate not the party

  • @David Evans

    An interesting question but I am not sure completely relevant as Senate elections are quite affected by the candidate(s) up – incumbency etc. and I suspect House totals for each state may be more relevant.


    Of the ten states that Trump won by 10% or less – the Democrats won the Senate seat in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio. A “loss” of 64 Electoral College votes which would have taken his total down to 244 – below the 270 needed to win. The Republicans won Florida, Arizona (both TBC) and Texas. North Carolina, Georgia and Iowa weren’t up for election.

    In the seats Clinton won by 10% or less, the Democrats won all the Senate seats up for election. But Clinton wasn’t very good at winning battleground states (!) so this leaves the more Democrat states and this was an election in the Democrats favour.

    People of greater knowledge of US politics will no doubt be pontificating but I think this is moderately encouraging for Trump.

    On the plus side for the Democrats in the 4 states, won by Trump by 10% or less and up for election in both 2016 and 2018, by my calculations, the Democrats had an improvement of 15% in their Senate vote – but this is a small number of states and they were some well-known incumbents up for election in 2016 for the Republicans – John McCain in Arizona and Marco Rubio in Florida for example that would have meant a inflated comparable Republican vote then.

  • Detailed figures:
    10 States won by Trump by 10% or less

    State, Electoral College votes, Democrats winning margin, 2016 Democrats Senate winning margin, 2018 Democrats Senate winning margin, Democrats Senate Improvement 2016-18

    (Negative value means Republican lead)

    Michigan 16 -0.2 N/A 5.4 N/A
    Pennsylvania 20 -0.7 N/A 12.8 N/A
    Wisconsin 10 -0.8 -3.3 9.8 13.2
    Florida 29 -1.2 -7.7 -0.4 7.3
    Arizona 11 -3.6 -14 -0.9 13.1
    North Carolina 15 -3.7 -5.8 N/A N/A
    Georgia 16 -5.2 -13.8N/A N/A
    Ohio 18 -8.1 -20.9,6.4 27.3
    Texas 36 -9.0 N/A -2.9 N/A
    Iowa 6 -9.4 -29.8N/A N/A

    States won by Clinton by 10% or less:

    New Hampshire 4 0.4 0.1 N/A N/A
    Minnesota 10 1.5 N/A 25.2 N/A
    Nevada 6 2.4 2.4 7.2 4.8
    Maine 2 3.0 N/A 28.8 N/A
    Colorado 9 4.9 N/A 5.7 N/A
    Virginia 13 5.3 N/A 15.7 N/A
    New Mexico 5 8.2 N/A 22.9 N/A

    Note that Nebraska splits its electoral college votes by congressional district and so the list excludes the one vote Trump won in its 2nd congressional district – winning the district by 2.3%. Maine includes the vote in the Democrat total for both the Independent Angus King (54.2%) who caucuses with the Democrats and the Democrat candidate (10.2%). 2018 results as most recently reported on Wikipedia which may change!

  • Richard Underhill 8th Nov '18 - 9:54am

    Elizabeth Warren

    .@realDonaldTrump’s firing of Jeff Sessions brings us one step closer to a constitutional crisis. Congress must act to ensure that Special Counsel Mueller can do his job without interference.

  • clive englisjh 8th Nov '18 - 11:20am

    One also needs to take into account State Governor and Legislature elections, which were fairly good for the Democrats in key states, and some others ie Kansas Also the vote in Florida to re-enfranchise 1.5 Million former felons could in such a close state change the outcome in the next election, as could re-districting in future state and house races. elsewhere.

  • Paul Murray 10th Nov '18 - 8:08am

    I suspect that the single most important result in these mid-terms was the successful passing of Prop 4 in Florida.

    1.2 million people who have been disenfranchised on the basis of spent criminal convictions (which sounds like a clear violation of the 8th amendment) will now be returned to the electoral role and will be eligible to vote in 2020. That will almost certainly result in clear Democrat victories in Florida.

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