clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Trump says the midterm elections were a “Big Victory” for him. That’s not true.

The Democrats won the House, and Trump feels fine.

President Donald Trump feels the 2018 midterm elections were a “Big Victory” for him and Republicans.
President Donald Trump feels the 2018 midterm elections were a “Big Victory” for him and Republicans.
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

The results of the 2018 midterms — Republicans kept hold of the Senate and Democrats took control of the House — will usher in an era of divided government that could stifle the White House’s agenda.

But President Donald Trump doesn’t look at it that way. Instead, he claims the elections were a “Big Victory” for him and his party.

“Received so many Congratulations from so many on our Big Victory last night, including from foreign nations (friends) that were waiting me out, and hoping, on Trade Deals. Now we can all get back to work and get things done!” he tweeted on Wednesday morning, even as some races that could see Republicans lose remain too close to call.

That followed a series of late-night and early-morning tweets where Trump showered praise on himself for helping some Republicans win. “Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!,” he tweeted on Tuesday.

Trump certainly has some reason for optimism. The GOP won an emotional gubernatorial race in Florida with the defeat of Andrew Gillum, but more importantly, the party gained seats in the Senate — a historical rarity. Democrats had a tough set of senators to defend, but as my colleague Matthew Yglesias recently noted, “This is so rare that it didn’t happen to anyone in 2004 or 2006 or 2008 or 2010 or 2012 or 2014 or 2016. But Tuesday night, at least three incumbent Democratic senators lost.”

Still, when an incumbent president loses control of the House of Representatives, it is not usually counted as a fantastic night for his party, and the president usually does not greet it as a victory. As the New York Times’s Peter Baker tweeted the morning: Bush called his midterm defeat in 2006 — when Democrats picked up 31 seats nationally and the House majority — a “thumpin.” Obama called his in 2010, when Democrats lost 63 seats, a “shellacking.”

While results are still being counted, Republicans’ losses this year don’t look to be quite as dramatic as those in 2006 and 2010, and Democrats’ majority will likely be smaller. Still, ultimately, Tuesday night proved a problem for Trump. A divided Congress will make it harder for the president to push his agenda forward. Adding seats in the Senate will allow him to keep confirming more judges and perhaps push through some bilateral trade deals with other countries (as he appears to reference in the tweet).

But any victory is limited: Trump won’t be able to get any new legislation through Congress without Democratic votes. House Democrats plan to push back on Trump’s foreign policy, for example, and investigate pretty much anything they want. That means Trump’s tax returns, alleged connections to Russia, firing of former FBI Director James Comey, and more will soon be under scrutiny.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.