Midterm elections: Blue wave fails to materialise – but Trump’s life is about to be made more difficult

Andrew Buncombe

At around 11.15pm on election night, Donald Trump decided it was time to tweet.

“Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all,” he said.

The White House said the president and the first lady, Melania, had been watching the election results pour in at the official residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, in the company of “friends and family”.

Were they watching a different election? Were they watching a movie? Had the teetotal president suddenly decided to visit the White House champagne cellar? How else, then, to account for such remarks?

Tuesday night was not a humiliation for Trump or the Republicans. They worked hard to hold on to control of the Senate. They also did enough to see off challenges from progressive would-be governors such as Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Andrew Gillum in Florida

In Texas, Ted Cruz, the man who was effectively the Republican runner up to Trump in the 2016 Republican primary, saw off a stunning challenge from the charismatic Beto O’Rourke. All of that belongs in the positive pile.

But Trump’s evening tweet appeared to ignore the biggest takeaway of the night – the Democrats won control of the House of Representatives and his life is likely to become very much tougher indeed. At the time of writing, it is predicted the Democrats would have a majority of as many as 35 seats in the chamber.

As Bill Clinton knows, the House is where most legislation starts life, and where any impeachment of the president would begin. For tactical reasons, the Democrats did not talk about impeachment during the campaign, but once they take majority control of the House, that is likely to change.

At the very least, with a new crop of progressive representatives taking their seats – among them Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Alyssa Pressley and Ilhan Omar – there will be pressure on the leadership of the Democrats to press for hearings into the administration’s conduct.

That pressure will become all the more insistent if special counsel Robert Mueller returns a report that suggests Trump was somehow involved in colluding with Russia over the 2016 election.

Nancy Pelosi, the current Democratic leader in the House, celebrated the win with a phrase she may have borrowed from Ronald Reagan. “Tomorrow will be a new day in America. Remember this feeling – the power to win.”

One Democrat was very blunt about what Mr Trump now faced. Jerry Nadler said: “He’s going to learn that he’s not above the law.” Others vowed to press the president to release his tax returns.

David Axelrod, the former chief strategist to Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, may have put it best on CNN.

“He can claim that he feels good about about losing the House tonight. But you won’t feel happy about down the road,” said Axelrod, who was in the White House when Obama lost both the Senate and the House in the 2010 midterms.

He added: “You’re always under scrutiny. You have to play defence.”