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A Congress divided: Democrats take House, Republicans add to Senate majority

The anticipated "blue wave" rolled through Capitol Hill Tuesday night, but it crashed with less force than Democrats might have hoped.

Democrats took control of the House of Representatives, commanding an approximately 20-seat majority, but failed to retake the Senate. In North Carolina, Republicans maintained control of both chambers of the state General Assembly, although Democrats likely ended the GOP's "supermajority" that had allowed it to override Governor Roy Cooper's vetoes. 

At a watch party early in the night, John Aldrich, Edmund T. Pratt, Jr. university professor of political science, said that predictions of a Democratic wave overestimated the impact of high turnout in this year's elections. 

"The original advantage [for the Democrats] dissipated because the Republican electorate responded to the challenge," Aldrich said. He accurately predicted the night's results, saying that Democrats would likely take back the House while the Republicans would pick up two or three seats in the Senate. 

Indeed, this race had higher turnout than most midterm elections. Thirty-six million people voted early, as compared to 27 million in 2014.

Several factors drove the races, but the economy hit close to home at Duke

The election was driven by several major issues, none of which are new to American politics. Healthcare reform, immigration and a booming economy have dominated the headlines in the past few years. Meanwhile, many voters viewed the election as a referendum on President Donald Trump.

For some Duke students, the economy was the biggest concern. 

"My current hopes right now are that the status quo remains unchanged," senior Elliot Lin said as results began to come in. "We have seen explosive job growth; we have seen a GDP growth rate that has averaged over three percent." 

Sophomore Liam Nolan, on the other hand, said that many of the supposed economic gains have gone to the richest Americans.

"I hope that the Democrats take control of the House and the Senate," Nolan said. "You have to think about who the economy is working for in these kinds of situations."

Democrats lose key Senate races

The Democrats hoped to pick up Senate seats in several competitive races, but their hopes ultimately fell short. 

Republican Ted Cruz defeated insurgent Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke in Texas to win another term in the Senate. Meanwhile, the Democrats lost seats in Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota, all of which Donald Trump carried in 2016. 

However, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin kept his seat in West Virginia, which President Trump also won. Manchin notably defied his party last month to vote for the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

The Democrats faced an uphill battle in the Senate from the beginning. They had to defend 26 seats, 10 of them in states that Trump won in 2016. Republicans, on the other hand, only had to defend nine seats. At the end of the night, Republicans picked up a projected two seats to give them a projected 53-47 majority in the chamber as of 2:15 a.m. Wednesday. 

What does Democrats regaining control of the House mean?

The Democrats took a projected roughly 20-seat majority in the House of Representatives. 

Some analysts predicted a "blue wave," in which Democrats would easily take control of the lower chamber of Congress. However, Democrats' house gains reflect a common trend in American politics. Since the Civil War, the president's party has lost an average of 32 seats in the House in mid-term elections and two in the Senate. 

In a speech late Tuesday night, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi condemned political division while thanking America's veterans and children. 

"A Democratic Congress will work for solutions that bring us together because we have all had enough of division," Pelosi said. 

Pelosi was the first female Speaker of the House, a position in which she served from 2007 to 2011. It remains to be seen whether she will regain the position now that the Democrats have a majority in the lower chamber again. 

Democrats break the Republican supermajority in North Carolina

The results here in North Carolina brought few surprises. Republicans kept control of both chambers of the State's General Assembly, which they have maintained since 2010. 

However, they no longer have a super majority in the state House of Representatives and Senate, assuming results stayed as they were as of 1:15 a.m. Wednesday. 

Of the six constitutional amendments on the ballot, four passed and two failed. 

Voters rejected amendments that would have changed how judicial vacancies are filled and allowed legislative appointments to the state's election board. They approved amendments protecting the right to hunt and fish, expanding victims' rights, mandating photo IDs for voters and capping the state's income tax rate at 7 percent. 


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