US midterm elections: Democrats disappointed at lack of 'blue wave'

Supporters at a "thank you" party for Democrat Beto O'Rourke in El Paso, Texas on Nov 6, 2018. He lost a high-profile battle against incumbent senator Ted Cruz by a thin margin. PHOTO: AFP

MIAMI, FLORIDA - All throughout the midterm election campaign, Democrats had held out hopes of a "blue wave" of their supporters sweeping them into the House of Representatives, and possibly also the Senate.

But though they looked set to retake the House from the Republicans, it became increasingly clear as results came in that they had not flipped as many seats and governorships as they had hoped to.

The Republican party held onto the Florida and Georgia governorships, with Ron deSantis defeating Andrew Gillum's bid to become Florida's first Democrat governor in three decades and its first black governor. In Georgia, Brian Kemp fended off Stacey Abrams, who would have been the country's first black female governor had she won.

The Democrats also lost high-profile battles like in Texas, where Senator Ted Cruz fended off a challenge from Democrat Beto O'Rourke, albeit by a thin margin.

Democrat supporters The Straits Times spoke to in Florida said that although Democrats had showed up to vote in high numbers, Republicans did too.

Said Mr Carlos Condarco, 32, a Democrat supporter in Florida: "I think a few people are quite surprised by the results. I think that the national, and certainly the local narrative, was that we were going to have a banner year for the Democrats, but apparently the results may be bearing out that that may not necessarily be the case."

He added:"I guess what I'm most surprised by is that despite all this talk of the wave, it didn't necessarily pan out, at least locally, the way we thought it would."

At a party with Democrat candidate Donna Shalala, who had wrested Florida's 27th congressional seat away from the Republicans in an early victory, partygoers looked a little glum despite their win.

By 9pm on Tuesday (Nov 6, US time), the Democrats' best hope for wresting the governorship away from the Republicans, outgoing Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, was losing by one percentage point to his Republican opponent Ron DeSantis. Over 90 per cent of the votes had been counted. Mr Gillum would concede the race two hours later.

Democrat Bill Nelson was also behind Rick Scott, the state's outgoing governor, in their Senate race.

Mechanical engineer Christopher Phelps, 30, said: "In order for Trump to lose in 2020, we needed pretty much for them (Nelson and Gillum) to both win."

Said retired manager Clayton Scrivens, 62: "We thought that Democrats would do better across the board. Yes, I'm very happy that Donna won, but we wanted the governorship, the lieutenant-governor... and none of those are happening right now. Even our senators aren't coming through. Those are the ones making decisions in Florida state.

"It's like having Trump here. Not good. So that's why we're looking sad. Donna can't do it on her own, so everyone's looking a little down," he added.

Fellow attendee attorney Allison Norris, 28, said: "In Florida, you never know what's going to happen. It's always kind of a toss-up.

"I feel that maybe Democrats don't have as much turnout as we would like. One of the biggest problems is that Democratic voters or people who would be Democratic voters, tend to not turn up."

Mr Concardo felt similarly, saying: "We had really high turnout, so the Democrats came out and voted in this election. But the Republicans did so as well.

He added: "And I think that part of it is that fundamentally, Republicans understand that they're in the minority, so they always vote like their lives depend on it. Whereas Democrats, we get these narratives and good feelings, that we're going to do great things, and a few people stay home. And that's unfortunate, but we gotta keep trying."

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