Let's revisit this post from election week, in which I highlighted a number of notable Republican victors in the media's much-discussed "year of the woman." Since that piece went live, a number of the tentative outcomes have changed: Young Kim narrowly lost in California, Martha McSally narrowly lost in Arizona (though could end up in the Senate anyway), and despite winning comfortably, Cathy McMorris Rodgers stepped aside from leadership, with Liz Cheney taking her place as the top-ranking Republican woman in the House. A number of female incumbents from competitive districts also lost by a hair, such Mimi Walters and Mia Love, the latter whom was defeated by a white man. Oddly, identity fetishists on the Left don't seem to be complaining about that outcome. But one of the results that remains intact is the victory of Cindy Hyde-Smith, who became the first woman ever elected to Congress (in either house) by Mississippi voters.
History! Year of the woman! "Can’t wait for all the glowing media profiles," snarked one Twitter buddy. The press, for some reason, tends to get more excited about certain historic political winners (and losers) than others. I can't quite put my finger on the difference; on the surface, it looks like many reporters are inclined root for Democrats, but I've been assured that such biases don't exist, so the search for the root cause continues. Here's how the Associated Press and Reuters covered Hyde-Smith's win:
Republican wins racially charged U.S. Senate race in Mississippi https://t.co/reYDkg70zl— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) November 28, 2018
By contrast, here's how the same AP Twitter account announced Bob Menendez's relatively close re-election, having barely escaped federal corruption convictions, following a stinging bipartisan rebuke from the Senate ethics committee:
Remember Kirsten Sinema? She won the Arizona Senate race despite numerous videos of her dumping on the people of her state, and her history of radicalism -- including portraying US troops as murderous skeletons spreading 'US terror.' I don't see anything about her 'surviving' her controversies here:
While we're at it, does anyone remember this AP framing of President Obama's 2008 victory?
Senator Barack Obama wins divisive Presidential election, surviving personal relationships with prominent anti-Semites and domestic terrorists. https://t.co/KHJZK52SQz— John Ekdahl (@JohnEkdahl) November 28, 2018
Oh, that didn't happen? Weird, right? To be fair, some media outlets did showcase the historic nature of Hyde-Smith's win, so the coverage was not uniformly biased. Also, she admittedly was not a strong candidate, foolishly 'joking' about attending a hanging and suppressing college students' votes, and relying on prepared answers written on notecards during the only debate of the runoff. Regardless, Hyde-Smith, a former Democrat, won by a tighter margin that is typically expected in Mississippi, but it wasn't exactly a nail-biter either. She prevailed by approximately eight points, leading to earlier-than-expected concession and victory speeches by the respective candidates. Hyde Smith underperformed most Republicans in certain suburban areas and 'swingy' districts, but made up ground among rural voters, underscoring a major theme of the 2018 cycle. President Trump's strong endorsement and eleventh-hour rallies likely helped secure her lead in the heavily Republican state. Her team wisely nationalized the contest, burying the Democrats' chances. Now that the Senate cycle is officially complete, Republicans have netted two seats, increasing their majority to 53-47. Phil Klein's takeaway is the most important:
Mississippi win gives McConnell 3 votes to spare on Trump judges https://t.co/y3HbHsBXly— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) November 28, 2018
With Democrats now in control of the House of Representatives, Trump won't be able to pass any sort of major legislation, meaning that the Republican Senate will be primarily spending the next two years pushing through as many judicial nominations as possible. In the past year, with Republicans down to 51 seats, McConnell has only been able to afford one defection on confirmations. That in effect has left fence-sitting Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Jeff Flake with out-sized influence over the nomination process as any two of them had the power to sink a nomination. Going into 2019, Flake will be out of the Senate, and McConnell will be able to afford to lose both Collins and Murkowski and still have a vote to spare given Vice President Mike Pence can cast the tie-breaking vote. The added cushion not only means that it will be easier for McConnell to get nominees confirmed, it also means that Trump and his team can have more leeway to nominate more conservative judges given that there is now less pressure to placate centrists.
Klein also notes that "there are 112 district court vacancies and 11 appellate vacancies on the federal bench." And one never knows when another SCOTUS seat could open up. Finally, just in case you can't get enough of Senate politics, I'll leave you with Josh Kraushaar's never-too-early preview of the 2020 map:
McConnell holding 53 Senate seats + the ever-growing rural vote for Rs makes 2020 Senate majority challenging for Ds.— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) November 28, 2018
Dems have solid chance flipping CO + NC + AZ, but significant rural vote in IA/GA/TX will bolster Rs.https://t.co/mj3PqyOQas