GREAT FALLS, MT - JULY 05: U.S. president Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Four Seasons Arena on July 5, 2018 in Great Falls, Montana....
Justin Sullivan

Trump claims elections were ‘epic’ for Republicans (they weren’t)

Updated

At the time of his presidential inauguration, Donald Trump benefited from a Republican majority in the Senate, where there were 52 GOP members. When the next Congress gets underway, there will be another Republican majority in the upper chamber, this time with 53 GOP members.

Evidently, the president thinks that’s “epic.”

“People are not being told that the Republican Party is on track to pick up two seats in the U.S. Senate, and [sic] epic victory: 53 to 47,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “The Fake News Media only wants to speak of the House, were [sic] the Midterm results were better than other sitting Presidents.”

I suppose “epic” is a subjective term, but as a rule, two isn’t a large number. Senate Republicans enjoyed a map so heavily tilted in their favor that some thought the GOP might be able to reach a 60-seat majority in this cycle. A month before Election Day, the National Republican Senatorial Committee expected to end up with as many as 55 seats. The party obviously fell short of both thresholds.

In fact, the standard for success keeps falling. Last week, Trump said Republicans had won 55 seats. Earlier this week, it was 54. Now, it’s 53.

A cynic might wonder if the president is simply pretending to be impressed with a two-seat pickup because Democrats fared so well in every other area of the election cycle.

But in terms of the public-relations offensive, Trump seems quite serious. In his interview with The Daily Caller argued:

“So we picked up three or four Senate seats depending on how it all goes – it’s a big pickup. In fact, they say in 80 years I think the presidential party’s only picked up two Senate seats, I picked up three.”

He actually picked up two, and the White House’s party has now added Senate seats in midterm cycles three times in the last 56 years.

“You look at some of the people that won, they wouldn’t have won without my helping them. And then you look at the new senators, you look at Indiana, Donnelly was not going to happen. Nobody said Donnelly was going to lose.”

Actually, Sen. Joe Donnell (D-Ind.) was endangered the day he took office, and everyone saw him as one of the nation’s most vulnerable incumbents.

“Tester, nobody wanted even to contest it.”

Actually, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) was another red-state Democrat whom observers expected to face a tough fight.

“Well, look at what happened in North Dakota with Heidi. Heidi, they said don’t contest. One year ago when we were looking, they all said don’t contest Heidi, she can’t be beat.”

Literally no one said that about Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.). For two years, she was seen as the chamber’s most vulnerable Democrat.

“If I didn’t do those stops, I think we would’ve lost 10 Senate seats, seven to 10 Senate seats.”

That’s literally impossible: there weren’t 10 Republicans up for re-election this year.

I can’t say with confidence whether the president actually believes any of his claims; it’s possible he’s just desperate to find a silver lining after his party struggled through the cycle. Either way, there’s nothing “epic” about the Republicans’ performance.