But the midterm results have longer-term implications as well. By broadening their Senate majority from 51 seats to about 54 (some races have yet to be decided), Republicans have expanded their chances of retaining control of the chamber after 2020. Only a handful of Republican Senate incumbents will be up in states where Democrats are competitive, and they have their own vulnerable incumbents, too.
As a result, even if a Democrat defeats Mr. Trump and takes over the White House in 2021, Mr. McConnell is likely to retain sufficient power in the Senate to prevent that president from appointing judges to start swinging the pendulum back. That situation would be similar to what happened in President Barack Obama’s final two years in office, when Republicans, after taking control of the Senate, systematically blocked his nominees to fill vacancies on both federal appeals courts and the Supreme Court.
“Getting judicial nominees acceptable from a liberal persuasion into a position to get nominated and confirmed is a slim-to-none proposition over the course of the next two to three election cycles because of the composition of the Senate,” said Bruce Buchanan, a political-science professor at the University of Texas, Austin.