The divergent outcomes in the House and Senate — a Democratic takeover in one chamber, and Republican gains in the other — exposed an ever-deepening gulf separating rural communities from America’s cities and suburbs.
Democratic gains in the House came in densely populated, educated and diverse enclaves around the country, around major liberal cities like New York and Philadelphia and also red-state population centers like Houston and Oklahoma City. The Republican Party’s traditional base in these districts collapsed, with college-educated white voters joining with growing minority communities to repudiate President Trump and his party.
Republican victories in the Senate came mainly in the conservative strongholds where Mr. Trump’s popularity has remained steady or grown since 2016. With rural voters moving rightward and the national Democratic Party moving left, Senate Democrats like Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Joe Donnelly of Indiana found it impossible to reassemble the political coalitions that elected them in the past.
As a long-term proposition, Democrats may be getting the better end of the bargain: They are winning over voters in growing communities that look more like the country as a whole, while Republicans are increasingly reliant on an aging population of conservative whites to hold up their electoral map. And for now, the Democrats’ eclectic coalition of white moderates, young liberals and African-American, Latino and Asian-American voters was more than enough to seize the House.
But the midterm elections also made clear that Mr. Trump and his party continue to hold important structural advantages on the electoral map — including near-total dominance of the conservative states that hold outsized power in the Senate, and a tenacious hold on the governorships of the two biggest swing states on the presidential map, Florida and Ohio.
Viral stars fizzle
It was the year of the viral campaign video — powerful ads that helped boost the profiles and fund-raising numbers for Democratic challengers across the country.
But it was not their night.
Several House candidates whose compelling biographies (and slickly produced renderings of them) helped put them on the national radar lost on Tuesday, including Randy Bryce in Wisconsin, Amy McGrath in Kentucky and M.J. Hegar in Texas. Ms. McGrath and Ms. Hegar made it close in traditionally conservative areas, though Democrats had higher hopes for full breakthroughs in recent weeks.
The conclusion is certainly not that viral videos are counterproductive; they remain a useful and efficient way to raise money and introduce a candidate to a wider audience. But at times, it seems, the audience was not always the intended constituency. Mr. Bryce, for instance, was an MSNBC darling — one of the most talked-about progressive candidates this cycle after his introductory video gained wide distribution, highlighting his ironworker background and signature mustache and hard hat. He appeared poised to lose by double digits, running in the district that House Speaker Paul D. Ryan is vacating.
And then there was the Texas Senate race, where Senator Ted Cruz felled the most viral candidate of them all: Beto O’Rourke, who livestreamed virtually every waking moment on the campaign trail, from burger stops to three-hour drives.
Opponents of abortion win big
Republicans gained some of their most important ground on Tuesday by electing several new senators who are opposed to abortion rights, a development that will help the party advance one of its bedrock issues.
By picking up Democratic-held Senate seats in Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri — and possibly elsewhere — the Republican majority will be decidedly further to the right on the issue. And no longer will the votes of two senators who support abortion rights — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — be as pivotal when it comes to confirming judges and passing legislation.
The elections of Josh Hawley in Missouri, Mike Braun in Indiana and Kevin Cramer in North Dakota — all opponents of abortion — have emboldened anti-abortion activists and would appear to make it far easier for the Senate to confirm judges who are seen as likely to strike down legal protections contained in Roe v. Wade.
“A good night for life,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that created extensive field operations to turn out anti-abortion voters in many of the states where Republicans saw their biggest gains.
In another series of victories for the anti-abortion movement, key governors’ races also swung its way. Iowa, Florida, Georgia and Ohio all elected governors on Tuesday night who oppose abortion rights.
And in two states, Alabama and West Virginia, voters approved ballot initiatives intended to limit abortion rights and provoke a legal challenge to Roe v. Wade.
Mr. Trump earned his support among white evangelicals by promising, and delivering, their biggest policy priorities — among the biggest was naming two conservative Supreme Court justices who had the approval of anti-abortion groups. Social conservatives are still hoping for a third.
Though the power of an anti-abortion majority in the Senate will be most immediately apparent in the judicial confirmation process, it is less clear how the new senators can affect longstanding policy goals of conservatives like the defunding of Planned Parenthood. That would seem a nearly impossible task with the Democrats in control of the House.
The year of the woman: what it all meant
Women, running for office in record numbers, helped Democrats win control of the House of Representatives.
Their victories were the fruit of two years of activism that began with women’s marches across the country on the day after President Trump’s inauguration. Women stepped up to run for office and support those who did.
Pennsylvania, which had no women in its congressional delegation, elected four of them. In New Jersey, where three seats flipped to the Democrats, the only woman, Mikie Sherrill, won her race by the largest margin, in a district President Trump won in 2016. In Iowa, a state Mr. Trump won, Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne wrested seats from Republicans.
Suburban women defected from Republicans.
Several female candidates prevailed in traditionally Republican districts, backed by college-educated women alienated by the Trump administration.
Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria flipped Republican seats in Virginia, where women mobilized in 2017 to elect female challengers to the state legislature. Lauren Underwood toppled a Republican incumbent outside of Chicago by appealing to women’s concerns about Republican attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And Angie Craig beat a Republican incumbent in a suburban Minnesota district.
Women marked historic firsts, particularly among Democrats.
In Massachusetts, Ayanna Pressley became the first woman of color in her state’s congressional delegation. Rashida Tlaib in Michigan and Ilhan Omar in Minnesota will became the first Muslim women in Congress. Sharice Davids toppled a male Republican in Kansas and Deb Haaland prevailed in New Mexico, becoming the first Native American women elected to Congress. In Tennessee, Marsha Blackburn, a Republican, became the state’s first woman elected to the Senate.
But once again, voters proved reluctant to elect female governors.
While several women were elected — Laura Kelly of Kansas, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, among others — they did not break the record of nine women, set in 2004. Voters have been more hesitant to choose women as chief executives, rather than legislators.