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Sunday, Nov 18, 2018
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Election scorecard adds up to a strong wave for Democrats

The voters have cast their ballots. Now it's time to tally up the votes. How big a Democratic wave was there in the 2018 midterms?

For the fifth consecutive campaign cycle, the Tampa Bay Times provided an advance guide to measuring the size of the "wave" by one party or the other. Below, we will see how Democrats performed on the 10 factors we outlined before Election Day.

These factors were designed to take in the national scope, encompassing U.S. Senate and House races, governorships, state legislative chambers, state attorney general races and ballot measures. (Keep in mind this is a national scorecard, not one for Florida, where every statewide office appeared to be won by a Republican, although late tallies and recounts could change that.)

After settling on the 10 key questions, we set a baseline for what's "expected" - based on current analysis by independent electoral handicappers including the Cook Political Report and Governing magazine - and established a sliding scale that awards more credit to the surging party for exceeding the conventional wisdom once the ballots are counted.

The more points the Democrats accrued on our rating scale, the stronger the Democratic wave.

So how strong was it? Let's take a look.

How many net seats in the House do the Democrats gain?

As of Nov. 8, the Democrats had gained at least a net 29 seats, and that number was expected to rise as a few remaining races were called. Democrats were leading in six un-called races while Republicans were ahead in seven un-called races.

We labeled a net gain of 31 to 36 seats a "strong night for the Democrats," and it's expected that Democrats will end up somewhere in that range.

How many incumbent House Republicans lose?

At least 20 House Republican incumbents lost, with up to 10 more losses possible. Depending on the final results, this rates either as a "strong night for Democrats" or a "very strong night for Democrats."

How many Democratic-held House seats are the Republicans able to flip?

A simple answer here: Zero, although the Republicans picked up three open seats. That rated as a "very strong night for the Democrats."

How many incumbent Democratic U.S. senators lose?

This was the Democrats Achilles heel. At least three Senate Democratic incumbents lost - North Dakota's Heidi Heitkamp, Missouri's Claire McCaskill, and Indiana's Joe Donnelly. One more, Florida's Bill Nelson, might join that list. Whether it ends up being three incumbent losses or four doesn't much matter; we rated losses of either three or four a "weak night for the Democrats."

How many Republican-held gubernatorial seats are the Democrats able to flip?

Democrats flipped Republican-held governorships in Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico and Wisconsin - seven in all, without seeing any of their own governorships flip to the GOP. That performance rates as a "strong night for the Democrats."

How many Republican-held legislative chambers are the Democrats able to flip?

The Democrats seized the Republican-held Colorado Senate, Maine Senate, Minnesota House and both chambers in New Hampshire. In addition, the previously tied Connecticut Senate went Democratic, while the New York Senate - which had been controlled by a Republican-led coalition along with renegade Democrats -- also went Democratic. That's seven chambers, which rates as a "strong night for Democrats."

How many Republican attorney general seats are the Democrats able to flip?

Democrats took the Republican-held attorney general seats in Colorado, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin, without losing any of their own. Four flips adds up to a "strong night for Democrats."

How many Republican secretary of state seats are the Democrats able to flip?

Democrats flipped the secretary of state seats in Colorado and Michigan. That rates as a "moderately strong night for Democrats."

How many red states vote to enable Medicaid expansion by ballot measure (states considering measures are Idaho, Montana, Nebraska and Utah)?

Three of these strongly Republican states approved an expansion -- a stunning turnaround from a few years ago, when the Affordable Care Act was anathema to most Republicans. A measure to extend Medicaid expansion and fund it with higher cigarette taxes failed in Montana. This result rates as a "strong night for Democrats."

How many states either vote for ballot measures to expand voting rights or vote to reject proposed curbs on voting rights (states considering measures are Florida, Arkansas, North Carolina, Maryland, Michigan and Nevada)?

The voting-expansion measures passed in Florida, Maryland, Michigan and Nevada, but measures to tighten voting access passed in Arkansas and North Carolina. This rates as a "strong night for Democrats."

SUMMARY: Among our 10 factors, we have one "very strong night," one on the cusp between "strong" and "very strong," six "strong nights," one "moderately strong night," and one "weak night." On average, the results cluster around "strong" -- not universally dominant, but also more impressive than just run-of-the-mill. So we'll call it a "strong wave."

Louis Jacobson is senior correspondent with PolitiFact.

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