The 2018 midterm election looked last Tuesday like a serious but not crippling setback for Republicans, with Democrats making significant gains in congressional races but failing to deliver a comprehensive defeat to President Trump and his party.
The picture for Republicans has gotten grimmer since then, as a more complete tally of votes has come in across the country.
What looked at first like a modest Democratic majority in the House has grown into a stronger one: The party has gained 32 seats so far and appears on track to gain between 35 and 40 once all the counting is complete.
And Democratic losses in the Senate look less serious than they did a week ago, after Kyrsten Sinema was declared the winner in Arizona on Monday. It now looks like the party is likely to lose a net of one or two seats, rather than three or four as they feared last Tuesday.
The underlying shifts in the electorate suggest President Trump may have to walk a precarious path to re-election in 2020, as several Midwestern states he won in 2016 threaten to slip away, and once-red states in the Southwest turn a purpler hue. The president’s strategy of sowing racial division and stoking alarm about immigration failed to lift his party, and Democratic messaging about health care undercut the benefit Republicans hoped to gain from a strong economy.
David Winston, a Republican pollster who advises congressional leaders, said his party should not use victories in the Senate to paper over severe losses with women, young people, independent voters and Latino voters, and Democratic gains with suburbanites and seniors.
“We didn’t lose the Senate, but losing by the margins that we did with a lot of these groups is unsustainable,” Mr. Winston said.
There are warning signs for Democrats, too: Mr. Trump’s party remains ascendant in rural America, giving Republicans a durable advantage in the Senate, where less-populous states have influence greatly disproportionate to their voting numbers. If Democrats cannot cut into Republicans’ strength in areas far from major cities, they may struggle mightily to take back the upper chamber in 2020.
And Republicans demonstrated a tenacious hold on two of the country’s biggest swing states, Ohio and Florida, giving Mr. Trump an important foothold on the presidential map.
Midterms are imperfect guideposts for presidential elections: In 2010, Democrats were defeated across Midwestern swing states and Florida and lost control of the House, only to prevail convincingly in the presidential race two years later. But for now, the big picture of the 2018 midterms is of a country in political flux, changing primarily to Mr. Trump’s disadvantage.