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Could a Monkey With a Dart Make Better Predictions? — And Other Takeaways From Tuesday’s Election

More investigations and congressional dysfunction, maybe a Supreme Court nomination — and more

Confetti covered the stage Tuesday at the Hyatt Regency in Washington after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., addressed the crowd at the DCCC election night party. Democrats won back the House in the 2018 midterms. (Margaret Spencer/ CQ Roll Call)
Confetti covered the stage Tuesday at the Hyatt Regency in Washington after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., addressed the crowd at the DCCC election night party. Democrats won back the House in the 2018 midterms. (Margaret Spencer/ CQ Roll Call)

Democrats took the House — no big surprise there — but the much-touted blue wave was no tsunami. Republicans held the Senate and even picked up a few seats. But what difference does it make?

A lot.

Here’s why:

1. Congressional oversight just got unleashed

President Donald Trump’s administration and federal agencies controlled by his political appointees are about to find out just how unsettling scrutiny by House oversight committees can be. Democrats will head the panels and control the agenda. It’s a target-rich environment, a cornucopia of scandal. Ethical questions about foreign officials spending promiscuously at Trump properties. Junkets, questionable purchases and conflicts involving Cabinet officials. And more.

2. Derailing Mueller just got harder

Let’s say, hypothetically, someone living at 1600 Pennsylvania wanted to stop the investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. One way to do that: Fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, whose dedication to purpose makes Captain Ahab’s pursuit of a white whale seem halfhearted. Firing Mueller — or any other Justice Department officials who might be inclined to protect his investigation — just got a lot harder with Democrats controlling the House.

3. Trump may get another Supreme Court confirmation

Senate Republicans may get another chance to confirm a Trump nominee to the Supreme Court, as well as a lot more conservative nominees for lower-court judgeships. They’ll have time. It’s not likely they’ll be worried much about legislation from a Democratic House headed their way.

Watch: ‘Pretty Stoked to be Voting’— Voters Around the Beltway Share Their Election-Day Thoughts

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4. Democrats may do more than just talk about impeachment 

Democrats were loath to use the “I” word leading up to the midterm elections, but flipping the House is likely to embolden at least some of them. Expect more talk about impeaching Trump.  Maybe even an impeachment.

5. The Senate still could drive a stake through an impeachment effort

Republicans still control the Senate. Even if the House impeaches, which requires a simple majority, conviction in the Senate requires a two-thirds majority. For now, that seems pretty unlikely.

6. Congressional dysfunction — it’s déjà vu all over again

If Congress couldn’t get much done when the GOP technically controlled both chambers and the White House, what are the odds that it’s going to get better with Democrats winning the House? Bills that get through the chamber can be blocked in the Senate. Trump can blame a Democratic House for nothing getting done, which could become a theme for the 2020 election. And in the meantime, important legislation that affects government funding, farm and nutrition programs — and a lot more — may be punted to 2019. 

7. Texas Republicans may have good reason to sing the blues

Texas Republicans may be feeling a little blue after some narrow wins Tuesday night. Only 3 points separated Sen. Ted Cruz from Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke — the closest Democrats have come to winning a statewide race in 20 years. Democrats picked up longtime GOP-held House seats in suburban Dallas and Houston, and Republicans only squeaked by in several other races. That could be worrisome for the GOP in 2020 — Texas is a big state with lots of electoral votes. 

8. Suburbia may have Trump seeing red

Trump may be seeing red after watching suburbs across the nation vote blue. Democrats flipped the House largely because of gains in affluent, well-educated suburban districts. Voters there didn’t embrace Trump in 2016, and that’s not likely to change if he’s on the ticket in 2020.


9. Don’t be writing epitaphs for Republicans any time soon 

Democrats who underestimate the enthusiasm of Trump supporters or widespread disaffection with all things liberal in large swathes of the country do so at their peril. Politics have become more tribal on both sides of the aisle. While Democrats made gains Tuesday night, that’s typically what happens in midterms for a party that does not control the White House. And both parties can still marshal strong support going into 2020. 

10. The guy in the White House is still a wild card

Is it possible that Trump may be willing to wheel and deal with House Democrats on some issues that he he’d like to chalk up as wins for his administration? Might he might alienate members of his own party in the process? Could he do all that even while the Russia investigation continues? As the president is fond of saying, “We’ll see.” 

11. We’re in a post-prediction political world

Multiple choice: What’s the best way to predict a political race?

A. Take a poll. B. Listen to a pundit. C. Tape candidates’ names to the wall and hand a monkey a dart. D. None of the above.

Yes, the correct answer is D. People lie to pollsters or can’t be reached. Pundits share DNA with weathervanes. And it’s not the monkey’s fault. A dart-throwing primate may be the best of three bad options, but it’s still random. 


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