WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) -- Democrats on Capitol Hill were energized Wednesday by the success of their party’s candidates in several major races on Election Day, and some were already looking ahead to the 2018 midterm elections with a fresh sense of optimism.
The party held onto the governorship in Virginia against a candidate who adopted many of President Donald Trump’s talking points, and it took the governor’s seat back from Republicans in New Jersey. Democrats also racked up victories in the Virginia state legislature and won several other local and state races elsewhere.
House Democrats saw their triumph as a repudiation not just of Trump’s policies, but of the divisive approach to politics he represents.
“The tenor of the discourse is not pleasing to the American people and I think that is reflected in the outcome of the election,” said Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga.
He suggested the elections were a sign that Republicans should now work across the partisan divide with Democrats to advance the interests of the American people.
“People across the country are concerned about the stewardship of their government,” he said. “They’re not happy that government seems to be dysfunctional.”
Other Democrats saw Tuesday’s performance as a harbinger of further success in 2018 if the Trump administration continues down its current path.
“I think that people are tired of the way this country is being run today,” said Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio. “They’re no longer accepting what President Trump is saying.”
She predicted the enthusiasm among Democratic voters who are outraged by Trump will propel the party to pick up seats in Congress in the midterms.
“What are they doing? They’re getting registered to vote and they’re voting and I think that’s going to play very well for us in our next election,” she said.
According to Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., the results on Tuesday were a big win for the grassroots resistance to the president.
“There was a lot of organizing going on by ordinary people who want to fight back,” she said.
Republicans were quick to point out that GOP candidates won most of the special congressional elections earlier this year, and that Virginia and New Jersey already lean toward Democrats.
“I think both states went for Secretary Clinton in the presidential race,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. “I do know earlier this year in all the special elections, Republicans had done well in those, so I think it’s mixed results for the year so far.”
However, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said seeing those earlier close races in traditionally Republican districts as signs of GOP strength would be a mistake.
“What people ignored was that Democrats got two or three times stronger performance,” he said. “They came very close in districts where they shouldn’t have been competitive at all.”
More Republicans in Congress have announced they do not plan to seek reelection in recent days, a trend Blumenauer sees as a sign of weakness.
“There are people who are frustrated and fed up,” he said. “Others are concerned that they’re just going to lose and its not worth their fighting. The Republicans are deeply split.”
Several Republicans said Wednesday that they believe passing their tax reform package is vital to success in the midterm elections, but Blumenauer argued that panic is leading them to embrace an unpopular and constantly-changing bill nobody understands.
“America has no idea what is in it and in fact many of my Republican colleagues don’t know what’s in it,” he said. “It shouldn’t be driven by politics. It should be driven by decent policy.”
Some divisions remain within the Democratic Party as well, but Tuesday’s results seemed to paper over those for the moment and offer a way forward.
“These are very important signals and I think it’s indicating that this next election is going to be very, very competitive,” Blumenauer said. “People are rejecting what is happening with Trump and his administration.”