Republicans retook the House majority in the midterms, but just a few thousands votes in five races could have swung the outcome in favor of Democrats.
The GOP appears on track to win 222 seats in the 435-seat chamber, meaning Democrats came just five seats short of the majority.
TargetSmart’s Tom Bonier calculated Sunday that Democrats could have held the House if just 3,340 Republican voters instead cast their ballots for Democrats in the five closest House races won by Republicans.
Republicans won in those districts by just over 7,000 votes combined, according to the latest tallies — meaning that Democrats could also have won by mobilizing a few thousand more voters in those elections.
In Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, far-right Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert beat out Democrat Adam Frisch by just 554 votes — a margin so slim it triggered an automatic recount in the state.
Republican John Duarte beat out Democrat Adam Gray by just 593 votes in California’s 13th District. Along with Colorado’s 3rd, the district is one of the two races still undeclared nearly three weeks after Election Day.
In Michigan’s 10th District, Republican John James won by 1,601 votes over Democrat Carl Marlinga, despite significant blue successes elsewhere in the state. The party flipped the Michigan state House and Senate and secured the governorship in a legislative trifecta, and Democrat Hillary Scholten flipped Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District on the other side of the state.
Republican Zach Nunn won Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District by just 2,144 votes over Democrat incumbent Rep. Cindy Axne, flipping the seat that also represents heavily Democratic Des Moines. Axne had been elected in 2018 as part of the “blue wave” that brought the Democrats to their current House majority.
In New York’s 17th District, Republican Mike Lawler won over Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the head of House Democrats’ campaign arm, by 2,314 votes in the first general election loss for a campaign chair of either party since 1980.
Assuming Republicans win the uncalled races in Colorado in California, the 222-213 House seat split would be a reversal of the results in the 2020 election cycle, when the House broke in the Democrats’ favor by the same numbers.
Though a loss for Democrats, the results are far from the “red wave” many in the GOP predicted ahead of the midterms.
House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) last year said Republicans would flip 60 seats or more in the lower chamber, and Republicans were optimistic about being able to take over the Senate as well.
But Democrats grew more hopeful about their chances in both chambers as poll results and special elections showed strong voter support despite historical headwinds against the party in power.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on the eve of Election Day that she was “optimistic” about House races others labeled “too close to call” and later contended that her party had a chance to hold on to the House.
“I have always objected to the presentation, the media thread that was out there [that] you can’t win because it’s an off year,” Pelosi said on the day of the midterms.
Democrats will keep control of the Senate, with the Georgia runoff next week determining whether they take 50 or 51 seats.
Young voters appear to have been a major block against the red wave, with post-election research indicating this year’s midterms saw the second-highest turnout among voters under 30 in the last three decades.
That demographic voted overwhelmingly for Democrats, giving the party a critical boost in key races such as the Pennsylvania Senate contest. Though Democrats have typically done well with young voters, Brookings research shows this year saw the group shift even more toward blue candidates.
Young women in particular broke hard for Democrats: CNN exit polling shows nearly three-quarters of women under 30 cast blue ballots. Slightly more than half of women overall were found to have supported Democrats in House races specifically.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said that Republican voters “didn’t show up” for the party on Election Day.