GOP Declares A New Morning In America
Triumphant Republicans — having seized the House, narrowed their deficit in the Senate and won several key governorships — turned Wednesday to outlining a plan for rolling back the Democratic agenda.
Efforts to revitalize the economy top the list. Republicans have also lobbied for spending cuts to reduce deficits, an extension of expiring tax cuts and a repeal of Obama's cherished health care bill. All are areas ripe for confrontation in the months ahead.
House Republican Whip Eric Cantor picked up the script from Tuesday night's GOP victory speeches, saying voters had given the party "a second chance, a golden opportunity" to prove themselves just two years after President Obama was swept into office.
Cantor, appearing on CBS' The Early Show, acknowledged that the results that saw the party win at least 60 House seats — the biggest turnover in more than 70 years — were more about a repudiation of the Obama administration than a vote for the GOP's agenda.
"There isn't a lot of confidence focused on Republicans yet," he said.
Ohio Rep. John Boehner, who will likely become speaker of the House, declared in a sometimes tearful victory speech Tuesday night that his party was willing to work with Obama if he "will now respect the will of the people, change course and commit to making the changes" that the American people demand.
The president, who will see his old Senate seat occupied by Republican Mark Kirk, telephoned Boehner late Tuesday to say he hopes to find "common ground" with Republicans.
The president will have more to say at an afternoon news conference Wednesday.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who helped Democrats maintain Senate control by holding on to his seat in Nevada, sounded defiant in his Las Vegas victory speech, comparing the election to a boxing match and vowing another round.
By Wednesday, however, Reid was talking consensus. He told ABC's Good Morning America that he has a "good relationship" with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, but warned Republicans that "just saying no doesn't do the trick."
The insurgent Tea Party movement, which backed several conservative candidates, had a mixed showing Tuesday night. Some of the movement's highest-profile candidates went down to defeat: Senate candidates Christine O'Donnell in Delaware and Sharron Angle in Nevada and New York gubernatorial hopeful Carl Paladino.
But in Kentucky, Tea Party favorite Rand Paul beat out Jack Conway, and the movement's backing for Marco Rubio in Florida helped him turn back Democrat Kendrick Meek and independent Charlie Crist.
GOP Takes It To The House
About two dozen House races were still too close to call and three Senate seats — in Alaska, Florida and Colorado — were still in flux early Wednesday. Republicans had picked up at least 60 House seats, far higher than the 39 they needed to take control of the chamber.
Among those going down was Rep. Rick Boucher of Virginia, who serves on the powerful Judiciary Committee and on Energy and Commerce and has been in office 28 years.
In Indiana, Rep. Baron Hill — a moderate Democrat and fiscal conservative — was ousted by Todd Young, a veteran and lawyer who has been endorsed by Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and presidential hopeful.
South Carolina elected State Rep. Tim Scott to the House. He will be the first black Republican to serve there since Reconstruction — as well as the first black GOP representative since Oklahoma's J.C. Watts retired in 2003.
Longtime Democratic incumbents who lost were Ike Skelton of Missouri, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee; Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania (13 terms); Gene Taylor of Mississippi (10 terms); Chet Edwards of Texas (10 terms); and Allen Boyd of Florida (7 terms).
One Republican lost his seat: Rep. Joseph Cao of Louisiana.
Many Democrats elected in 2008 as President Obama reached the White House were swept out just two years later. The wave disposed of liberals, moderates and conservative Democrats alike.
Andrew Kohut of the Pew Center for the People & the Press cited an "enthusiasm gap." According to exit polls, conservatives were out in force, while young people and African-Americans stayed home compared with 2008.
And the middle of the electorate — independents — flipped in their loyalties.
Democrats Lose Ground In Senate, Too
With Kirk's win in Illinois, it appeared certain that Republicans had picked up five Senate seats previously held by Democrats.
In Wisconsin, the GOP's Ron Johnson knocked off longtime Sen. Russ Feingold.
Also making gains for Republicans were Dan Coats in Indiana, John Boozman, who beat Democratic incumbent Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas, and Gov. John Hoeven, who takes the seat held by retiring Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan in North Dakota.
Roy Blunt won in Missouri, keeping that Senate seat in GOP hands.
In West Virginia, Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin claimed the Senate seat vacated by the late Sen. Robert Byrd.
And in Connecticut, longtime Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, overcame a $50 million spending spree by Republican newcomer Linda McMahon.
In Ohio, Republican Rob Portman claimed the seat vacated by fellow Republican George Voinovich. Republican newcomer Kelly Ayotte won in New Hampshire, holding on to another GOP seat. In Kansas, Jerry Moran snatched the Senate seat vacated by fellow Republican Sam Brownback.
Democratic incumbents still on the job include Reid in Nevada, Barbara Boxer in California, Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer in New York, Pat Leahy in Vermont and Barbara Mikulski in Maryland. Republicans holding on to their seats include John McCain in Arizona, Mike Crapo in Idaho, Richard Burr in North Carolina, Tom Coburn in Oklahoma, Johnny Isakson in Georgia, Jim DeMint in South Carolina and Richard Shelby in Alabama.
The State Of The States
Across the nation, 37 governors' offices were up for grabs, as well as control of many statehouses. State-by-state outcomes will affect redistricting decisions that could have a lasting impact on the political landscape.
On Wednesday morning, Florida Democrat Alex Sink conceded a close race to Tea Party-backed candidate Rick Scott, adding another number to the GOP column.
In California, political veteran Jerry Brown, a former governor and onetime presidential hopeful, will return to Sacramento after defeating billionaire Republican Meg Whitman.
Democrat Andrew Cuomo won in New York, taking the office once held by his father, Mario.
A tight race in Ohio saw Republican John Kasich unseat Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland.
In South Carolina, voters gave the governor's job to Nikki Haley, who succeeds scandal-plagued Gov. Mark Sanford. Haley had the support of the Tea Party and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
Republicans grabbed several more governors' posts: Bill Haslam in Tennessee, Sam Brownback (the former senator) in Kansas, Rick Snyder in Michigan and U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, who will be Oklahoma's first female governor.
Another first: Susana Martinez, the Republican who won in New Mexico, will be the nation's first Latina chief executive
The GOP also held on to statehouses in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Utah.
Democrats keep the governorships of Colorado, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire and New York. Democrats also picked up Hawaii after Neil Abercrombie, a former congressman, defeated Republican James "Duke" Aiona to replace outgoing Gov. Linda Lingle.
Former Republican Lincoln Chafee, running as an independent, claimed the governor's post in Rhode Island.
Nationally known incumbents who will keep their jobs include Texas Gov. Rick Perry on the Republican side and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick for the Democrats.
Results from national exit polls analyzed by experts from the Pew Research Foundation indicated that 41 percent of the people who voted Tuesday called themselves conservative, up from 32 percent in 2006 and 34 percent in 2008.
A solid majority (56 percent) agreed with the statement that government is "doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals." Two years ago, a majority agreed that government "should do more to solve problems."
It's also an older electorate, with 25 percent of voters 65 or older, up from 16 percent in 2008.
Overwhelmingly, voters disapproved of Congress — 73 percent, with majorities among those voting Democratic and Republican alike.
Both political parties were viewed equally negatively: The unfavorable rating was 53 percent for Republicans and Democrats.
Republicans must decide whether the results give them a true mandate for an agenda that might include tax cuts, smaller government and a repeal of the federal health care overhaul.
"My recommendation to [Republicans] … would be that they immediately figure out who among the Democrats might form a bipartisan majority," former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich told NPR.
Gingrich says the key for Republicans is to cooperate but not compromise, a point of view echoed by Ken Duberstein, who was President Ronald Reagan's chief of staff from 1988-89.
Duberstein said Republicans must recognize that "that this was a referendum on Obama and the Democrats. It was not because the country is in love with your agenda. Big, big difference."
"Find areas of working together with President Obama to demonstrate to the country that you are not the party of stop. That you are a party of go," he told NPR.
What's clear is that voters were not responding to any sort of coherent political message this time around — unlike the GOP's "Contract with America" in 1994 or the criticism of the Iraq war that drove Democratic gains in 2006 and 2008.
Although Democrats still hold the White House and the Senate, they may not be able to get much done in these highly partisan times. Even with their previous 59-41 advantage (which included two independents who caucused with the Democrats), they had trouble achieving a 60-vote, filibuster-proof supermajority.
Yet the sweeping Republican victory might raise more questions than it answers, at least in the short term. Many elected as Republicans on Tuesday — including Tea Party candidates — are unknown quantities to mainstream party leaders.