Kevin McCarthy delayed the victory speech to what was to be a jubilant Republican party until Tuesday morning at 2 a.m. A large number of people had already left by that point.
The GOP leader kept his speech short, since he didn’t know if his party would win the House.
McCarthy stated, “When you wake-up tomorrow, we’ll be in majority and Nancy PELOSI will have to be in minority,” to a packed ballroom after it had been thinned in early morning hours.
McCarthy predicted that the GOP would win more than 60 House seats in a historic red wave a year ago. Even though it was before Roe V. Wade was reversed, Republicans still hoped that dozens of House seats would swing in their favor following a campaign focused on economic woes as well as the low ratings of President Joe Biden.
Election night was a slow-burning of those hopes. Party leaders, however, were quick to remind voters that there were still reasons to celebrate.
McCarthy was flanked by Ronna McDaniel, chair of the RNC, and House GOP campaign chief Tom Emmer, both Republicans. Both races had not been called.
The victory that Republicans had imagined was not what the sleepy event turned out to be. Downtown D.C.’s Westin Hotel was home to GOP staffers, lobbyists, and others. They flocked to various open bars in the ballroom downstairs at 9 p.m. eagerly awaiting the arrival of election results from Fox News TVs.
In the hours before McCarthy’s arrival, however, there was little cheering as people watched in dismay as competitors came in with mixed results.
A woman exclaimed, “Oh no!” as Fox News showed John Fetterman winning over Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania’s Senate race. This was hours after Republicans began to admit they would not get their red tsunami.
“The RED WAVE didn’t happen. Republicans and Independents stayed at home. “DO NOT COMPLAINT ABOUT THE RESULT IF YOU DID YOUR PART!” Tweeted Rep. Mayra Flowers (R.Texas), who won her congressional district in June but lost it to Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez on Tuesday, after redistricting.
This sentiment was echoed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.S.C.). He declared on NBC News, “Definitely not a Republican Wave, that’s for damn sure.”
Many of the seats that Republicans were targeting had been called by Democrats, or appeared likely to be won. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D.Va.) was one of those who feigned victory over Yesli Vega, a GOP candidate in this highly competitive race.
GOP hopes of flipping a district located in deep-blue Rhode Island were also shattered when Democrat Seth Magaziner defeated GOP Candidate Allan Fung. Even though the race was not officially called, Wiley Nickel had a slight edge over Bo Hines, the GOP candidate in North Carolina.
Some House Republicans still seemed cheerful despite Democrats maintaining their position in certain areas. After midnight, Rep. Thomas Massie (R. Ky.) said to reporters that he would be just as happy with a slimmer majority. He then explained why that narrow majority would not only benefit him but also make it difficult for McCarthy and other Republican leaders.
“It’s obvious Joe Manchin was the one who voted in the Senate. Massie would be a great caucus. My caucus will have one member if there is a one-seat majority. It’s me. Massie stated that he can decide whether a bill is passed or not, noting that 218 members have subpoena powers. “I would be the wrong man if you want to find someone who is heartbroken that there isn’t a 40-seat majority.”
Massie was the only GOP lawmaker to be found at the main GOP election-night party in Washington. Rep. Debbie Lesko (R.Ariz.) made an appearance in early hours.
The ballroom was quiet for much of the evening. Attendees were scattered or scarce until McCarthy, who was wearing a stage emblazoned “TAKE BACK TH HOUSE” on it, took to the stage. Planners didn’t anticipate such a late-night event, and they tried to figure out how guests could still get alcohol after 1 a.m.
The muted affair was in stark contrast with the exultant private party that preceded it, hosted by National Republican Congressional Committee which included McCarthy, McDaniel, and others as they prepared for their results.
The Democrats took their own victory lap despite projections that the House would still be lost by them.
“While many races are still too close to call,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated in a statement at 1:30 AM that “it is evident that House Democratic Members (and candidates) are strong outperforming expectations across this country.”