1. Winner: DC Power-Broker Democrats. If you are a Republican, don’t fool yourself. Last night could have been much worse for the Democrats. The loss of the House was a given. But Democrats held onto the Senate, and while Republicans picked up many governorships the Democrats held onto some important ones, California and New York foremost among them. And predictions that Republicans could gain 80 or even 100 were shown to be exaggerated.
Democrats also prevented some fantastic Republican candidates from coming to power. Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman were two of the most promising female Republican candidates in a generation. Both are personally appealing, extremely competent and intelligent, female executives with vast personal fortunes, and they could have been very appealing on a national level, especially if they had had the opportunity to build records of accomplishment in Sacramento and Washington.
The Democrats also avoided Senator Sharron Angle and Senator Christine O’Donnell. While neither one could have been as appealing nationally as Fiorina and Whitman, they connected with grass-roots conservatives in a powerful way. Haley and Bachmann won, Angle and O’Donnell lost; the Mama Grizzlies were 2 for 4.
At the end of the day, the most powerful Democrats in Washington must have gone to bed at least a little relieved. They still have the Senate by a comfortable margin; they still have the White House; they have at least two more years of the power to appoint nominees for the Supreme Court. Also, although winning so many governorships (at least 10 and probably more like 14) will help Republicans in the 2012 Presidential race, it’s going to be very tough to defeat Obama in 2012.
There will be no clear-cut showdowns between a Republican Congress and a Democrat White House, just a divided Congress and a liberal White House.
2. Winner – Republican Party. In spite of everything I just said, this was a tsunami election. Some very important Democrats like Reid and Boxer were able to grab hold of a tree and ride it out; but it was a tsunami nonetheless. By any standard, the pick-up of 60-plus House Seats is a historic victory. Bigger than 1994. Bigger than any margin, in fact, for over 60 years. Republicans will also pick up at least 6 seats in the Senate and at least 10 governorships. Many powerful, long-serving Democrats like Ike Skelton and Russ Feingold just lost their jobs.
While Republicans did not win control of the Senate, they will win control in 2012 unless the national political climate changes dramatically. 23 Senate seats that are currently held by Democrats or independents that caucus with the Democrats will be up for reelection, compared with only 10 seats held by Republicans. Democrats will be defending Senate seats in three states where Obama lost in 2008 (Nebrasks, North Dakota and Montana) and more in states where Democrats lost last night (such as Ohio, Florida and Missouri).
Also, very importantly, many state houses swung to the Republicans. At least 17 state legislative bodies (houses or senates) swung Republican — all over the country. The North Carolina and Alabama legislatures are Republican for the first time since 1870 and 1876. The Wisconsin and New Hampshire legislatures flipped entirely to the GOP by strong margins. State Houses went GOP in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, Montana, and Colorado, and State Senates went GOP in Maine and Minnesota. In some states like Texas and Tennessee, Republicans went from a slight to a powerful majority.
Republicans gained everywhere: East, West, North, South, Senate, House, governorships, state Houses, state Senates, in races big and small. The floundering Obama administration has weakened the Democrat brand and inspired more Americans to identify themselves as conservative and Republican. Its overreach, too, inspired a passion amongst conservatives and even independents that far outstrips the usual passion for midterm elections.
3. Winner (but not an unqualified victory) – The Tea Party Movement. Tea Partiers really wanted to defeat Harry Reid. They also really wanted Joe Miller to win in Alaska, and it looks more likely that Murkowski will win. And Republicans almost certainly would have taken Harry Reid’s seat, and Joe Biden’s former seat, if the Tea Party had rallied around more thoroughly credible and more broadly appealing candidates.
However, let there be no mistake: the Republican party was the massive beneficiary of Tea Party largess last night. Tea Partiers are not at all thrilled with the Republican party, but they are furious with the Democrats and wished simultaneously (1) to move the Republican party to the Right, toward fiscal responsibility and a more limited government, and (2) to give a reformed Republican party another chance and hold them accountable to act on traditional fiscal conservative principles.
The Tea Party movement did not have to side with the Republican party. They might have chosen to form a third party. They did not do so. Instead they threw their overabundance of time and effort and funds to Republican candidates. They tried to support the most conservative electable candidate. Angle was probably electable, but a more electable candidate would have been wise. O’Donnell was not electable in Delaware, and she hurt the Tea Party brand.
The victories of the Tea Party movement, however, outnumber the defeats. The Tea Party helped to bring to a national platform a candidate of stratospheric political talents – and a person of deeply sincere Christian faith: Marco Rubio. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson, Dan Coats and Nikki Haley will be strong torch-bearers for conservatives. And the GOP should be stumbling over itself to express gratitude to the Tea Party movement for its resounding victory last night.
Later today, I will post quick-shot winners and losers:
Winners: Republican minorities, Jim DeMint, Joe Lieberman, Tea Party apologists.
Losers: Republican women, women in general, Nepotism (for Democrats), California, Weed Growers.