The question was never “will the Democrats do well at the midterms?” The question was always “how badly will they be butchered?”
Most polls and commentators predicted that this year’s US midterm elections would see the Republicans retake control of the House of Representatives and have a fair crack at grabbing the Senate.
And so, at least for the first part, it came to be: the GOP snagged 60 additional seats in the House and six seats in the Senate.
So do this year’s results signify some sort of revolution, or at the very least a turning point?
Well, for one thing, we’ve witnessed the birth of a new political movement, even if the Tea Party did suffer some setbacks. One of the Tea Party’s most high profile candidates, Delaware’s witch-cum-politician Christine O’Donnell (who late last month was hit with an almighty whack of dirt by website Gawker), was convincingly defeated by Democrat Christopher Coon. Some reportage suggests O’Donnell was optimistic in her defeat while others say she blamed the GOP.
The Huffington Post’s David C. Wilson, perhaps aided by the benefit of hindsight, claims O’Donnell lost the race a long time ago:
The pundits who thought Delaware Senate Republican candidate Christine O’Donnell was ever doing well among the state’s electorate were sadly mistaken from the jump. Not only did she performed less than admirably in her debate performances, she mishandled her media relations, fought the state and national Republican Party organizations, and most importantly, she failed to connect with Delaware voters…
Some of O’Donnell’s Tea Party colleagues fared much better. Marco Rubio pulled off a big win in Florida and is considered one of the party’s rising stars. Some have gone as far as linking Rubio with the fate of the Tea Party. The 39-year-old Cuban-American has generated international headlines, including this piece in The Age in which he is associated with descriptions such as “darling” and “future president.”
On the other side of the political divide, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi was re-elected but, with the Democrats now the minority party in the House, her future is uncertain.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid avoided — says The Huffington Post “the indignity of becoming the first Senate majority leader to lose re-relection in 58 years,” convincingly defeating the Tea Party’s Sharron Angle.
California’s Proposition 19, the bill seeking to legalize marijuana, went up in smoke, securing 44% of the vote. It seems Californians prefer to pass the dutchie to the right hand side, despite pre-recorded phone call messages from Susan Sarandon attempting to persuade them otherwise. The Washington Post covered what “mom and pop” growers were up to while the legislation was debated.
Meanwhile, Republicans prepared to move into Governor’s mansions across the country, reported Stephanie Simon in The Wall Street Journal, the “GOP flipped at least a half-dozen states that had been governed by Democrats, racking up wins across the Midwest, notably in Michigan, Wisconsin, Kansas, Oklahoma and, in the West, Wyoming. Republicans also took over governors’ seats in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Florida, New Mexico and Iowa.”
Overall there was a low turnout from youngsters, with exit polls showing voters age 18-29 made up only 11 percent of the electorate. Says The Washington Post’s Perry Bacon Jr:
The young apparently haven’t seen enough hope and change since 2008.
Voters under 30, who overwhelmingly voted for President Obama two years ago, not only showed up in much lower numbers on Tuesday, but were also less willing than in the last election to strongly support Democrats.
Like every political event, there are innumerable ways both sides can spin it, many different contexts in which the results can be placed and plenty of people who can be blamed or championed. Before polling booths had even closed Christopher Beam at Slate listed ten people and issues the Democrats might like to point the finger at.
The Washington Post’s Kathleen Parker argues the party’s poor results weren’t because of communication communication failure but a failure of policy:
Here’s a narrative: You can’t sell people what they don’t want, no matter how mellifluous your pitch. This is the clear message of the midterm elections.
Arianna Huffington brings it back to the economy, stupid, The Hill blames health care and Fox News’ Dana Perino viewed the midterms as a “trial separation” from Obama. Dan Balz at The Washington Post makes the point that both parties (and presumably media commentators) are in danger of misinterpreting the results.
One thing’s for sure: Obama — to use his own parlance — took a shellacking. In his “morning after” speech the President predictably took responsibility for the blame. Reports Carol E. Lee and Glenn Thrush at Politico:
Speaking to reporters in the East Room on Thursday, a solemn and contrite Obama conceded he has sometimes been trapped “in the bubble” of the White House, losing touch with regular Americans and said he takes his party’s losses personally.
The man widely touted as one of the great political orators of our time summed up what such a “shellacking” feels like in three words:
“It feels bad.”