WASHINGTON — Democrats have retained their majority in the House of Representatives, securing the necessary 218 seats on Sunday evening, according to Decision Desk HQ.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will likely retain her position as the leader of the party after winning her own race in California, but she acknowledged in a letter to Democratic members Wednesday that the fight to keep the House was more trying than many imagined it would be. Republicans picked up at least four new seats.
“Though it was a challenging election, all of our candidates – both Frontline and Red to Blue – made us proud,” Pelosi wrote. “Our discipline in building a massive battlefield proved essential in keeping the Majority. Our success enabled us to win in our ‘mobilization, messaging and money,’ forcing Republicans to defend their own territory.”
Pelosi also wrote in the letter that Democrats had “flipped critical battleground states,” but as of Thursday afternoon, the party had not ousted a single incumbent House Republican running for reelection.
While Democrats will hold on to their majority in the chamber, the party had hoped to expand their membership in the House. Instead, they lost several high-profile seats, and some centrist members of the caucus are reportedly pushing for new leadership.
Pelosi confirmed to CNN last month that she planned to seek another term as speaker if Democrats kept their majority. She is the first woman to serve as speaker of the House, a position she first assumed in 2007 and held until 2011 when Republicans took the majority. She was elected as speaker again last year.
She vowed in 2018 to serve just two more terms as the Democratic leader in the House in order to assuage younger, progressive members seeking a change.
“I’ve been around a while, I don’t think anybody in our caucus, even in a drunken stupor, is thinking they could run against Nancy Pelosi and win the speakership,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri told Politico in late October. “Any departure by Nancy Pelosi will be because she wants to depart,” he added. “She is riding in that parade at the front. And the rest of the parade is following joyfully.”
But as the election unfolded, that parade was not quite so joyful.
In total, Democrats needed to defend 30 seats in districts that President Donald Trump won in 2016; 28 of the 50 seats FiveThirtyEight considered most likely to flip this cycle were held by Republicans.
Democrats led in the polls ahead of Election Day, and had significant opportunities to pick up a number of seats across the country, but wound up with at least a four-seat loss. Democrats did win two new seats in North Carolina that had previously been held by Republicans, but that’s in large part thanks to redistricting which changed the makeup of those seats so significantly that FiveThirtyEight gave Democrats a 99% chance of winning in them.
In 2018, Democrats secured their majority by winning a number of important suburban swing districts, and the party considered many of the first-year lawmakers among their 42 “frontline” members whose seats were more vulnerable to flip this cycle. Four of those high-profile members have now lost their seats, as of time of publication.
In Florida, Democratic Reps. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala both lost to their Republican challengers, as did Democratic Reps. Abby Finkenauer of Iowa, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, and Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico.
After taking back the House majority in 2018, Democrats had history on their side going into 2020: The last time the majority in the chamber flipped two elections in a row was 1954, and the last time it flipped in a presidential election year was two years prior to that, in 1952.
Since taking control of the chamber two years ago, Democrats have passed bills that would expand voting rights nationally, address mass shootings, and disperse additional COVID-19 relief funds, but nearly every bill died in the Republican-controlled Senate. That fate appears likely to meet Democrats again, as the party’s hopes of flipping the Senate have all but evaporated in recent days.
Last year, House Democrats also voted to impeach Trump on two counts. No Republicans voted in favor of impeachment and beginning a trial in the Senate, but two Democrats, Reps. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, broke with the party and voted against the president’s impeachment. Van Drew then left the Democratic Party entirely and became a Republican. Van Drew won his reelection race. Peterson did not.