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Midterms Were a Buffet Election for Democrats, Republicans
Each side can pick what it liked best from the results — and ignore warning signs

Sen.-elect Mike Braun, R-Ind., Sen.-elect Mitt Romney, R-Utah, Sen.-elect Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Sen.-elect Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., and Sen.-elect Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., pose for a group photo in McConnell’s office in the Capitol on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

When I was a kid in small-town Oregon, my family would occasionally go to King’s Table, and my sister and I would get free rein at the buffet.

I became famous in my own family for my condiment salad — an impressive collection of bacon bits, croutons, shredded cheese, sunflower seeds and plenty of ranch dressing. Essentially, my strategy involved choosing what looked and tasted good and avoiding anything of nutritional value.

Could Texas Be a 2020 House Battleground?
Some House races in the Lone Star State were closer than expected

Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, lost a Senate bid but came close to defeating GOP Sen. Ted Cruz. ((Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Texas Democrats had their best election in over a decade last week when they flipped at least two Republican-held House seats. But closer margins in other races have boosted party hopes of future gains in the once deep-red Lone Star State.

“What it shows us moving forward is that we have congressional battlegrounds in Texas,” said Manny Garcia, deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party. “As we move into the election cycle in 2020, it’s very clear now that Texas is in play.”

Democrats Pick Up Another California Seat With Denham’s Loss
AP calls Central Valley race for Josh Harder, one week after Election Day

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., has lost his re-election race to Democrat Josh Harder. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Jeff Denham has become the 24th House Republican to lose re-election this year, falling to Democrat Josh Harder in California’s 10th District one week after Election Day.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Harder led the four-term incumbent 51 percent to 49 percent when The Associated Press called the race.

Maybe Stu Rothenberg Isn’t So Bad at This After All
2016 was a disaster, 2018 not so much

From left, Sen.-elect Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen.-elect Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., talk during a photo-op in Schumer’s office in the Capitol on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Boy, I stunk up the joint in 2016. I was sure that Donald Trump wouldn’t — couldn’t — win the presidency, and I said so without any “ifs” or “buts.” I didn’t pay enough attention to the possibility that Trump could lose the popular vote badly but still win an Electoral College majority. I tried to explain my mistakes as completely as I could in an end-of-the-year Washington Post column.

But this year, watching the midterms from 10,000 feet instead of being in the weeds, I feel pretty good about my analysis throughout the cycle. Maybe it was dumb luck. Maybe it was years of watching campaigns and candidates. Maybe it was some of each.

Coast Guard Bill Returns ‘Delta Queen’ Steamboat to Spotlight
Senate reauthorization measure would exempt boat from safety regulations

A provision in the Senate’s Coast Guard authorization bill would allow the Delta Queen, a wooden steamboat, to operate as an overnight cruise ship despite safety concerns. (Al Behrman/AP file photo)

Senate votes this week will help determine whether a 91-year-old wooden steamboat can be revived as an overnight river cruise ship — even though the Department of Homeland Security calls that prospect an “unacceptable” fire risk.

A provision buried deep in a recently modified version of the Senate’s Coast Guard authorization bill would exempt the Delta Queen paddle wheel boat from federal law and Coast Guard regulations that require vessels with overnight accommodations for 50 or more passengers to be made of fireproof materials. The boat’s owner envisions the vessel as a Mississippi River cruise vessel for up to 174 passengers.

With Divided Congress, Health Care Action Hightails It to the States
Medicaid expansion was the biggest winner in last week’s elections

As health care debates raged over the last few years, Congress was smack dab in the middle. After Tuesday’s elections, most of the action moves to the states. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Newly-elected leaders in the states will be in a stronger position than those in Washington to steer significant shifts in health care policy over the next couple of years as a divided Congress struggles with gridlock.

State Medicaid work requirements, prescription drug prices, insurance exchanges and short-term health plans are among the areas with the potential for substantial change. Some states with new Democratic leaders may also withdraw from a multistate lawsuit aimed at killing the 2010 health care law or look for ways to curb Trump administration policies.

Kyrsten Sinema Becomes First Female Senator Elected From Arizona
She’s also the first Democrat to win an Arizona Senate election in 30 years

Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema has won the Arizona Senate race. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema has made history by becoming the first woman elected to represent Arizona in the Senate. She defeated Republican Rep. Martha McSally after several days of ballot counting.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Sinema led McSally 50 percent to 48 percent when The Associated Press called the race six days after Election Day.

Former Arizona Rep. Ron Barber Returns to District Director Roots
Democrat accepted position with Rep.-elect Ann Kirkpatrick

Former Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., will return to his district director role, this time for Rep.-elect Ann Kirkpatrick in Arizona’s 2nd District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Rep. Ron Barber will return to service as district director for the seat he once represented in Congress, starting in January, according to an announcement from 2nd District Rep.-elect Ann Kirkpatrick

“I asked Ron if he would serve as District Director because no one knows Southern Arizona better than him,” the incoming congresswoman said in a statement. “There’s no one who loves Tucson and Cochise County more than Ron. He is one of my top advisors, and I’m thrilled that he and Nancy are willing to step back into the arena to serve the people of Southern Arizona.”

FDA Plans Crackdown on Flavored E-Cigarettes
Move aimed at preventing nicotine addiction in young people

The FDA wants e-cigarette manufacturers to take steps to curb youth use or “face regulatory consequences.” (Matt Cardy/Getty Images file photo)

The Food and Drug Administration, seeking to prevent nicotine addiction in young people, plans to ban flavored e-cigarette sales in gas stations and convenience stores and will propose banning menthol flavoring in traditional cigarettes.

E-cigarettes and their liquid nicotine flavors would continue to be sold in dedicated vape stores, where the FDA believes age verification procedures are more reliable. Gas stations and convenience stores will be able to keep selling e-cigarettes and liquid nicotines flavored like tobacco and menthol.

Rohrabacher Loss Marks End of an Era in Orange County
Longtime Republican congressman loses to Democrat Harley Rouda

GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher lost to Democrat Harley Rouda in California’s 48th District. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

After 30 years representing the longtime conservative bastion of Orange County, California, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher will not be returning to Congress next year. 

Democrat Harley Rouda led the 15-term Republican congressman by more than 8,500 votes in the 48th District, 52 percent to 48 percent, when The Associated Press called the race Saturday night.