WASHINGTON – Democrats went into Election Day hoping to reclaim the White House and majorities in both chambers of Congress in a victory that would demonstrate an unmistakable repudiation of President Donald Trump and a Republican Party remade in his image.
It didn't work out that way.
More than 12 hours after polls closed, Biden held a narrow lead in some key states with hundreds of thousands of votes yet to be counted, and he has a comfortable advantage in the national popular vote. But as of midday Wednesday, there was no clear Democratic wave.
Republicans held key Senate seats that Democrats hoped to flip, and the GOP may ultimately shrink the Democrats' House majority. And even if Trump were to ultimately lose, the closeness of the presidential contest raised the prospect that a Biden presidency would have difficulty enacting progressive priorities or quickly move past the cultural and partisan fissures of the Trump era.
“The Trump coalition is more stubborn and resilient and capable than maybe we anticipated,” said Rep. Gerald Connolly, a six-term Democratic lawmaker from Virginia. “The country is even more polarized and divided.”
While Trump's critics were deeply disappointed that the hoped-for blue wave never materialized, Biden's allies encouraged the political world to step back and see the big picture. Dan Pfeiffer, a former aide to President Barack Obama, posted a message to Democrats on Medium entitled, “Biden is winning, act like it.”
“The Republicans are already trying to neuter his ability to govern by casting aspersions about how he won," Pfeiffer wrote. "We cannot let them do that. The stakes are too damn high.”
Indeed, should Trump lose, no matter the margin, he would be the first incumbent president to fail to win reelection since 1992. Biden has already flipped two states Trump carried four years ago, Arizona and Wisconsin, and held a modest lead in at least one other, Michigan, as he moved toward rebuilding the Democrats' so-called “Blue Wall.”