The Day After

In the aftermath of the best electoral night for the Republicans since the age of flappers, I thought I would share a few reflections on some of the common memes that have sprouted up over the past 24 hours.

Evidently at about 4 in the morning CNN was running with a headline on their website that read “Split Decision.”  Even less hopeless cases pondered why the GOP seemingly didn’t do as well in the Senate as it did in the House.  While it’s true that there were some disappointing results in Nevada, Colorado, and West Virginia, the fact of the matter is the Republicans won 25 of the 37 contested Senatorial contests.  Republicans had to defend 19 of their own seats and then win an additional ten in order to gain majority control of the Senate, a rather long-shot proposition to begin with.  As it is the Republicans won two-thirds of all Senate contests, lost none of their own seats and picked up six in the process.  That would be a good night  by any measure.

This is just the nature of the Senate with its staggered elections.  Not only were Democrats only putting up less than one-third of the seats they held before the night started, but these were in by-and-large solidly Democratic states.  Except for the aforementioned seats these were all races in states where the GOP wave did little damage: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New York (x2), Oregon and Vermont (Washington still has not been decided).  In a year in which they picked up over 60 House seats, Republicans only gained a net total of four seats in these states, and five of those were in New York, which started the evening with two seats out of a 29-member delegation (two of the three seats the GOP lost came from this group – Hawaii and Delaware, with a pickup in the first Congressional District in Maryland).  Republicans should be disappointed with some missed opportunities, but overall the party did as well in the upper chamber as it did in the lower chamber, and is set up for a lot of prime pickup opportunities in 2012 (which is exactly what the Democrats thought in 2008 about 2010).

Another common talking point that has emerged is that this election was not a vote of confidence by the electorate for the GOP.  Well duh. Mid-term elections such as this one are always more a vote against the incumbent party than for the opposition.  While the gap between support for the Republican party and the actual vote it received yesterday is a fairly wide one, there is nothing particularly unique about what we’ve just witnessed.  Democrats have been quick to point out that the public hasn’t really embraced the Republican party, especially since the GOP did not really present much of a platform for the public to validate.  Well that’s interesting, because I don’t really recall much of a unified or coherent platform pushed by the Democrats in 2006 other than “don’t you just hate that George Bush fellow?”  Even the 2008 election, while being somewhat of an affirmation of, Barack Obama, was still mainly built on the “George Bush is the locus of evil in the modern world” platform.  Heck, Democrats were still using anti-Bushism in 2010.  And yet I don’t think Democrats were all that concerned about the lack of affirmative public support for them when they swept into power four years ago.

All tidal wave mid-terms are essentially expressions of intense voter dissatisfaction with the incumbent party.  Whether the party that is the beneficiary of voter angst can translate that into long-term success really hinges upon the proceeding presidential election.

A couple of other random observations: This is the first time in a century that a party has won control of the House but not simultaneously won control of the Senate.  I’ll delve more into what the ramifications of that might be in a future post, but I  will say that this is not totally without recent precedent.  Even though Republicans remained in the minority in the House  after Reagan’s landslide in 1980, the coalition of Reagan Democrats and Republicans did give the party something like de facto control.  Meanwhile, Republicans did have majority control of the Senate.  In 1982 the Democrats won back 27 seats, and the House shifted decidedly left, but the Senate remained in Republican hands.  Could this be a parallel situation?  Democrats would hope so, though I suspect not.

I mentioned it on the live blog last night, but the biggest advances for the Republicans were in the following states: Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.  What do all those states have in common?  Those are all swing states that swung for Obama in 2008.  And even though they didn’t do as well in Congressional races for North Carolina, they picked up the state’s legislature for the first time in 130 years.

And of course that is one other huge but downplayed story of the election.  Nineteen state legislative bodies (either House or Senate, and in some states both) switched from Democratic to Republican hands.  Last night witnessed the dying gasps of the Democratic party in old Dixie, although the Republicans won in state legislative races in every region.  The one sour note was that an expected semi-rejuvenation in New England didn’t quite materialize, though Republicans did win both New Hampshire House seats.  Otherwise, the GOP is zero for New England (in the House).

Finally, I think the fact that last night’s results were largely expected blunts the significance of this election.  The GOP was written off as dead not even two years ago.  Even late into last year it would have been considered a 50-50 proposition for the Republicans to win back the House of Representatives.  That they have rebounded, and rebounded well past where they were four years ago, is an amazing comeback story.  Now what they do with that “second life,” well, that remains to be seen.

10 Responses to The Day After

  1. Joe Green says:

    I would have given up 20 House seats to see Reid and Boxer go down. Look at the new political map of the U.S. and the entire country is a sea of red except for a portion of the left and right coasts with a splotch of blue in between here and there.

    Obama’s “can’t we all get along and work together” plea today rings hollow and hypocritical after he relegated the Republicans to the back of the bus for the past 2 years. Now let him sit in the back, or would that be a “racist” remark?

  2. Pinky says:

    “Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Michigan”

    Leave Florida off that list for a second. Add in the win in Illinois, and Chris Christie’s New Jersey. What you’ve mapped out is the Rust Belt. That’s the area the loss of which was supposed to point to the GOP’s descent into a regional party. If the Democratic Party controls that strip, the GOP is left to the South and the less-populated states west of the Mississippi. If the Republican Party controls that strip, the Dems have only the NY/Boston corridor and the West Coast.

    Of course, neither party owns that territory. But it’s been home to some of the worst GOP party organizations in the country like Ohio and NJ, teams that I thought could lose anything. The only state in that zone where the GOP lost the three major races – you know, “lost” isn’t strong enough – was NY. The New York Republican Party might be the least effective organization in the country.

  3. Charles says:

    I found this interesting:
    “I watch three groups especially closely in politics, because they have almost perfect track records in voting for the winner. They delivered once again last night. White Catholics were 19 percent of the electorate, and they voted for winning House candidates by 58 to 40 percent. (In 2006, they voted more for Democratic House candidates). Those with “some college” education were 30 percent of the electorate, and their vote in House races was 53 to 44 percent for Republicans. (In 2006, they voted narrowly for Democratic House candidates.) Independents were 28 percent of the electorate and they also voted disproportionately for Republicans in House races, 55 to 39 percent for Democrats. (In 2006, Independents voted 57 to 39 percent for Democratic House candidates.)”

  4. restrainedradical says:

    Nationally, it looks like the generic vote was around +7 for the Republicans which is around where the average of the generic polls put it. Gallup overshot by more than double. However, Republicans picked up more seats than a +7 would suggest, suggesting that Republicans won more toss-ups and badly lost the sure losers. Maybe party funding is becoming more efficient.

    Rasmussen proved to be the most consistently inaccurate poll, giving Republicans 3-4 points more than they actually got.

  5. c matt says:

    Vox Nova sure is quiet today.

  6. Elaine Krewer says:

    “Look at the new political map of the U.S. and the entire country is a sea of red except for a portion of the left and right coasts with a splotch of blue in between here and there.”

    Interestingly enough, these political maps of supposedly deep-blue Illinois, courtesy of CNN, show similar results: a sea of pure red except for Chicago and a couple of splotches of blue:

    Although at least three, and perhaps four, IL Congressional seats flipped from blue to red the news isn’t all good for the GOP here. The Senate race was won by one of the most “moderate”(i.e. pro-abort)/RINO congressmen ever; and the Democratic incumbent governor still has a 12,000 vote lead, which no amount of absentee ballot counting is likely to erase at this point. In that race, at least, Cook County still had enough votes to cancel out a full-force GOP tsunami in the rest of the state.

    Even so, the Illinois GOP was just a few short years ago a strong contender for the title of most inept GOP organization in the country, but now it looks like they are starting to get their act back together.

  7. Paul Zummo says:

    Even so, the Illinois GOP was just a few short years ago a strong contender for the title of most inept GOP organization in the country, but now it looks like they are starting to get their act back together.

    I’m not sure if my native home state (New York) or my adopted home state (MD) is worse. Actually, the Maryland GOP isn’t so much incompetent as invisible. Unlike New York, there’s never been much of a viable Republican presence in Maryland, so I guess that puts NY over the edge.

  8. M.Z. says:

    If territory were coextensive with votes, territory would be significant. Even Republicans would be glad to cede downstate Illinois if they could pull 60% from metropolitan Chicago. All we know right now is that Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Michigan are competitive. Only a couple of those are surprising in the least. Since New York and California aren’t competitive for the GOP, they need the Dakotas to Texas, Alabama, and Mississippi just to get to parity. The GOP has certainly won a reprieve from regional obscurity. Their problems haven’t evaporated with one election cycle. The Dems have their own issues, starting with neither Pelosi nor Reid being electable in a significant number of held Democratic districts.

  9. Blackadder says:

    Red states are going to get 6 extra net electoral college votes starting in 2012. This is a marginal benefit, but it does make the electoral math a bit easier for them (for example, with the new numbers Bush could have lost Ohio in 2004 and still been re-elected). Republicans also managed to win majorities in a lot of state legislatures, which will be an advantage in redistricting. Again, it’s a marginal benefit, but it is a benefit nonetheless.

  10. T. Shaw says:

    Obama is squandering $200,000,000.00 a day in what-was-called-Bombay doing what? Visiting outsourced jobs?

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