By the time US President Donald Trump and his team tucked into hamburgers and hot dogs at a White House election watch party on Tuesday night, he was ready for bad news.
Working on just a few hours of sleep after a heavy day of campaigning, Trump spent much of Tuesday on the phone, checking in with friends and advisers, talking to state and Republican Party officials and White House aides to get a picture of what to expect.
Republicans were likely to lose control of the House of Representatives but hold on to control of the Senate, adding seats to its majority there. When word came in that the projections were broadly correct
, it did not come as a shock.
“It’s disappointing but it’s not surprising,” said Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway.
The House loss meant Trump will face investigations into his tax returns, businesses and administration by Democratic lawmakers. His legislative agenda, including a vague proposal for a middle-class income tax cut, will likely be stalled.
At the election watch party, Trump was upbeat. In a public comment on Tuesday night, he tweeted: “Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!”
One adviser warned that the president might not be prepared for the onslaught of investigations that Democrats were likely to launch.
“I don’t think he fully comprehends what this means by giving the gavel to (Democratic House leader) Nancy Pelosi and her cronies,” the adviser said, who asked to remain unidentified.
Some advisers anonymously assigned blame for the expected loss of more than 30 House seats, focusing on Corry Bliss, head of a political action committee that distributed money to House Republican candidates, and Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel. There was also some upset over House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plans to resign at the end of the year.
But overall, there was satisfaction among Trump and his aides that the losses were not as bad as had been projected by strategists who warned that a Democratic “blue wave” could steal up to 40 House seats.
The party that controls the White House usually loses seats in the first congressional midterm elections, two years after a presidential victory. The Democratic Party under former president Barack Obama lost 63 seats in 2010.
“Trump should be feeling good right now. They finished strong. They picked up seats in the Senate and they minimized the ‘blue wave’ in the House. These midterms are historically tough for a White House,” said Republican strategist Scott Reed.
Trump and his advisers felt that adding at least two seats to the Republican Senate majority helped blunt the impact of the House outcome.
FOR TRUMP, the evening unfolded at a watch party in the White House residence, where the East Room and the State Dining Room were set up with large-screen TVs. Buffet tables were laden with some of Trump’s favorite foods.
The guest list included major donors Sheldon Adelson, Harold Hamm and Stephen Schwartzman, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, evangelical leader Jerry Falwell, aides like Kellyanne Conway, first lady Melania and children Ivanka, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, and Vice President Mike Pence.
Cheers rang out among guests when Republican victories were scored, particularly when Democrat Andrew Gillum conceded defeat in the Florida governor’s race to Rick Scott.
Trump was described as content on the campaign trail, not prone to soul-searching, and believed his focus on illegal immigration had helped give his candidates a boost.
Trump held 30 get-out-the-vote rallies in the past two months, including 11 in the last six days across eight states, the last three on Monday when he returned to the White House at around 3 a.m.
Aides said the president was delighted at the projected victories by Republican Senate candidates he had campaigned for, such as Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Rick Scott of Florida, Mike Braun of Indiana and Josh Hawley of Missouri, as well as Republican Brian Kemp’s victory in the Georgia governor’s race.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president’s agenda remained the same, and that he would be willing to work with Democrats on immigration, the opioid crisis and funding infrastructure projects.
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