Highlighted by a win over Tea Party favorite Allen West in Florida, Democrats over the weekend put the final ribbons on the last five undecided U.S. House races, ensuring a pick up of eight seats from the 2012 elections, as they narrowed the Republican majority in the Congress.
While West still has not conceded his race, Democrat Patrick Murphy took a larger lead in Florida’s 18th Congressional District as early votes in St. Lucie County were recounted on Saturday and Sunday.
At this point, Democrats believe that race is over, even if West decides to pursue legal action.
Other races that became official in recent days:
* Congressman Ron Barber (D) declared victory in Arizona’s Second District as he increased his lead; this was the seat of ex-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ). Democrats also prevailed in two other close races in the Grand Canyon State.
* Rep. Mike McIntyre (D) now leads by over 500 votes in a district that Republicans thought they would win in North Carolina; a recount is still possible, but Democrats believe they will keep this seat
* Democrats have now won the seats of Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) and Rep. Dan Lungren (R) in California, ensuring that the Golden State will have a dozen new lawmakers in the next Congress
It means that the 113th Congress will begin in January with a 234-201 advantage for the Republicans, down eight seats from the 2010 elections.
As for 2014, history suggests that it should be a big year for the Republicans, as often the party out of power can make big gains in the second midterm election, but there have been notable exceptions.
For example, Democrats lost 28 seats in 1950, Harry Truman’s final midterm election; Republicans lost big eight years later in 1958, when Dwight Eisenhower’s final midterm saw a 48 seat gain for Democrats.
But Bill Clinton turned history on its ear in 1998, when his party picked up 5 seats – even after all of the trials and tribulations of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
George W. Bush lost 30 seats in his second midterm in 2006, as Democrats swept into control of the Congress.
What will 2014 bring? History suggests big gains for the GOP, but it doesn’t always happen that way.