Republicans surge and election turns into rout

The Republican party has succeeded in routing the Democrats and taking the Senate. They also have retained control and extended that control of the House.

They needed 6 seats to take the Senate and grabbed 7. The Atlantic reports:

Republicans took the Senate majority in a commanding sweep on Tuesday, winning nearly every contested race across the country, gaining governor’s mansions and adding to their majority in the House of Representatives. For weeks, pundits had debated the semantics of what would constitute a “wave” election, but when it came, it was unmistakable.

Republicans unseated Democratic incumbents in Senate races in Arkansas, North Carolina, and Colorado, and were leading in Alaska early Wednesday. They easily held onto GOP-controlled seats in Georgia, Kansas, and Kentucky. In New Hampshire, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen barely held on against Republican Scott Brown. In one of the night’s biggest surprises, Virginia Senator Mark Warner, who was thought to be safe, was up only half a point over his Republican challenger early Wednesday. The Louisiana election, in which Democrat Mary Landrieu finished slightly ahead of her Republican challenger, Bill Cassidy, was set to go to a December runoff, which Cassidy is favored to win.

Though Pennsylvania’s abysmally unpopular Republican governor, Tom Corbett, was defeated, Republicans took over governor’s mansions in Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts, and were leading by a hair in Colorado. Controversial Republican incumbents Scott Walker (Wisconsin), Rick Snyder (Michigan), Sam Brownback (Kansas), Paul LePage (Maine), Nathan Deal (Georgia), and Rick Scott (Florida), all of whom had appeared vulnerable in pre-election polls, all held on to win reelection.

Ebullient Republicans, many of whom had run relentlessly one-note campaigns focused on the unpopular president, touted the results as a rejection of President Obama and Democratic policies. “This race wasn’t about me or my opponent,” Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky senator who easily won reelection and stands to become the new majority leader, told a ballroom full of supporters here. “It was about a government people no longer trust.”

Much speculation now focuses on McConnell, who has been blamed for singlehandedly stopping most of the Obama agenda for the past five years. (Ironically, the conservatives who want the Obama agenda stopped give McConnell little credit for doing so.) But McConnell now faces a choice about whether continued obstruction will serve his party’s interests. In his victory speech, he mentioned no specific policies but rather struck a conciliatory note.

“Some things don’t change after tonight,” he said. “I don’t expect the president to wake up tomorrow and view the world any differently than he did when he woke up this morning, and he knows I won’t either. But look, we do have an obligation to work together on issues where we can agree. Just because we have a two-party system doesn’t mean we have to be in perpetual conflict.”

Turnout, as unusual seems to have been the key. The Republicans managed a better turnout and the Democrats stayed home.

Why did Democrats lose? Exit polls pointed to an electorate that strongly resembled that of 2010, when the older, whiter electorate that favors Republicans turned out enthusiastically, while the young, non-white electorate that favors Democrats largely stayed home. The working-class vote?defined as voters making less than $50,000 per year, a crucial demographic for Democrats?was only 37 percent of the electorate, comparable to 2010, when it was 36 percent. Those voters favored Democrats by a 14-point margin; the party generally wins when the margin approaches 20 points. Look for many Democrats to argue that the party must put more emphasis going forward on a populist economic message.

Plenty of other factors conspired against Democrats. Obama’s popularity has dropped steadily for the last year as he faces crisis after crisis?some impossible to anticipate and some of his own making, from the rollout of (though, liberals note, opposition to Obamacare was not a major theme of many Republican campaigns) to the Islamic State insurgency, the border crisis, and the Ebola epidemic. Democrats’ expensive, much-touted effort to expand the midterm electorate through field organizing in targeted states proved unavailing?indeed, it was Republicans, not Democrats, who surprised the pundits by doing better than polls had forecasted across the map. Late Tuesday, Democratic recriminations had already begun to fly, with Reid’s staff openly blaming the White House for Senate Democrats’ losses in The Washington Post.

But Republicans also earned their win by capitalizing on their opportunities, rather than squandering them as they’ve often done in recent years. The GOP establishment rallied early to beat back Tea Party primary challengers, spending tens of millions of dollars but largely succeeding. No Senate incumbent lost a primary, and open-seat contenders viewed as fringe candidates were defeated or pushed out of contention across the board. The only high-profile primary defeat was the shocking June loss of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. In the place of past years’ memorably batty GOP nominees, from Sharron Angle in 2010 to Todd Akin in 2012, was a polished, palatable class of Republicans whom voters could envision representing them in Washington.

What will be interesting is to see what Nate Silver says, it appears his models were rooted and he misread turnout.

David Farrar has a useful summary of key points of the election.


– The Atlantic