After the votes were tallied on Tuesday night, the results revealed massive
victories for Republicans at all levels and in every region of the country. With
a handful of races still up for grabs, the GOP has wrested control of the U.S.
Senate while boosting its House majority to the highest level seen since the
Great Depression. At the state level, Republican governors eclipsed their 2010
high-water mark of 30 and helped to flip at least seven state legislative
chambers putting them en route to full control of state governments in nearly
half the country. While the GOP’s mandate is unclear, voters delivered a
stinging rebuke of the president and his party, effectively rendering him a lame
duck for the remaining two years of his administration.
The night’s most obvious prize lay in the Senate, where Republicans finally
succeeded in winning the majority after seeing their hopes dashed in each of the
past two cycles. The GOP enjoyed a distinct structural advantage in the upper
chamber, as Democrats were forced to defend seats in seven states won by Mitt
Romney, six of which voted against President Obama in each of his elections by
double digits. Republicans also had history on their side, as the out-party
typically makes significant gains in the president’s second midterm. But while
the GOP saw a clear path to the six seats it needed, late polls suggested that
the Senate remained too close to call.
While Republicans successfully expanded the map into purple states thanks to the
retirement of longtime Democrat incumbents in Iowa and Colorado, they faced
uncomfortably close contests in red states like Kansas and Kentucky. Meanwhile
Democrats plowed $60 million into their vaunted ground game, using early voting
and aggressive turnout in a bid to salvage their majority. And even if
Republicans won the races where they were favored, two potential run-offs
threatened to send the battle into overtime.
After two consecutive cycles of promise, setbacks, and unfulfilled expectations,
the prevailing narrative suggested that Republicans might again find a way to
snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But when the early returns began to
trickle in, an immediate call for Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky
presaged a long night for Democrats.
An otherwise sleepy race in Virginia drew murmurs when exit polls showed popular
incumbent Mark Warner (D-Va.) locked in a surprisingly tight race—an ominous
sign for those considered truly vulnerable. After a widely expected victory
early in the night for Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D) in New Hampshire, the size and
scope of the GOP wave slowly began to reveal itself. In Arkansas, a clean sweep
saw Republicans take every statewide office, including a 17-point win for Rep.
Tom Cotton (R) over Sen. Mark Pryor (D). In Iowa, state Sen. Joni Ernst (R)
easily defeated Rep. Bruce Braley (D) in a race that polls suggested would be
much tighter. In Colorado, where an all-mail ballot system was thought to be
Democrats fail-safe, Rep. Cory Gardner (R) handily defeated incumbent Sen. Mark
Udall (D). These three seats, together with open seat lay-ups in South Dakota,
Montana and West Virginia, put Republicans’ tally at six and the threshold of
A surprisingly strong showing by GOP poll laggards in Kansas and Georgia made it
official, as Sen. Pat Roberts (R) fended off a challenge from wealthy
Independent Greg Orman, and David Perdue (R) earned an outright win over
Democrat Michelle Nunn. The icing on the cake was provided by North Carolina,
where incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan (R) had maintained a stubborn lead in the polls,
when Thom Tillis (R) surged to victory in the biggest Senate surprise of the
night. Republicans awoke to a 53rd seat in Alaska, where Dan Sullivan (R)
defeated Sen. Mark Begich (D) overnight.
While all eyes were on the Senate, it was the Governor’s races that provided the
biggest shock and propelled many of the down-ticket gains. Republicans not only
prevailed in swing states like Florida, Wisconsin and Michigan, but also notched
impressive wins on deep blue turf. Improbable victories in Maine, Massachusetts
and Illinois were overshadowed by the upset of the night in Maryland, where
Larry Hogan (R) defeated Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) by nine points.
With 53 Senate seats (and a likely 54th, pending a Dec. 6 Louisiana run-off),
Republicans will have full control over the legislative branch, allowing them to
vote on many House-passed bills that have stalled on the desk of current Leader
Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
While President Obama will maintain veto power, expect Republicans to send him
consensus legislation, such as the Keystone XL pipeline and other items popular
with the broader public. Perhaps most importantly, the GOP will control the
confirmation process, preventing President Obama from appointing activist judges
or hostile regulators. Meanwhile the expanded House majority will mean a dozen
or more new votes in favor of open competition and the myriad state legislative
gains present further opportunities to stop government-mandated project labor
agreements. While the fallout from Tuesday’s results is not entirely clear, the
political tremors will be felt in Washington, D.C., and throughout the country
for years to come.
Currently rated by 0 people