Sorry, Trump, it was absolutely a blue wave
The Upshot’s Nate Cohn writes that House Democrats are projected to win the popular vote nationwide by 7 to 8 points once all the votes are counted. That’s slightly better than the GOP’s margin in 2010 or even 1994 and roughly the same as the Democrats’ margin in 2006. “In a word,” Cohn writes, that’s “a wave.”
And he’s right, it’s a wave by any measure except for that of Donald Trump and some GOP strategists. “I thought it was very close to a complete victory,” Trump said during his extraterrestrial post-election rant Wednesday. That’s fine, let Republicans ignore the trouncing entirely while Democrats build on it for 2020.
As of now, Democrats have flipped 34 House seats, at least seven governorships, and six legislative chambers. Those numbers don’t include outstanding races where either votes are still being counted and/or recounts might still ensue.
In the Senate, Democrats were defending 26 seats in total, 10 in states that Trump won by a lot, and at this juncture Democrats have surrendered only three of those seats while flipping at least one other from red to blue. (Outcomes in Florida and Arizona remain in question, while Mississippi is headed to a runoff.) It was the toughest Senate map in a century and, at most, Republicans could end up with a 54-seat majority. So far, all the GOP pick ups have come in deeply red states—Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota—meaning Republicans didn’t expand their map into truly purple or blue states.
But the Democratic gains in the House were pretty extraordinary given the challenges they faced. Not only were the vast majority of the districts highly gerrymandered to favor Republicans, Democrats also had to make up the bulk of their pickups in red districts (versus winning back seats in blue territory, similar to what the GOP did in the Senate).
As Cohn writes:
At the beginning of the  cycle, only nine Republicans represented districts that tilted Democratic in the previous two presidential elections. Even in a wave election, these are usually the only incumbents who are standing on the beach with a greater than 50 percent chance to lose.
There were 24 such Republicans in 2006, and 67 such Democrats in 2010.
In other words, Democrats this cycle started off in a far worse position than either party did in the previous two wave elections. When all the votes were counted in 2006, Democrats netted 30 seats. So far this cycle, they’ve already netted 32 pick ups even though they had fewer easy pick offs. Democrats have also picked up more seats in deep-red districts this cycle than Republicans did deep-blue seats in 2010.
That’s a wave.