So What Did We Learn?

Election 2010 is in the books. Though final numbers are not in yet, Republicans picked up a massive 60 seats and will gain control of the House of Representatives. The six Republican pick-ups in the Senate fell short of the 10 needed to control that chamber meaning we will have a split Congress in January.

It is possible to make some analysis of the results, without looking at it from a partisan perspective, and look at what happened last night. So, let’s do so.

Republicans Had a Huge Night: There is no way you can spin this other than it was a major victory for the Republican Party. Some will argue that the fact the Democrats maintained the Senate dampers that victory, but I don’t believe that is accurate in the long term. Republicans now have a position of power in the House and, if things stall in the Senate, have a scapegoat in the Democrats. That could be a potential player in 2012 when the Democrats will have more seats to defend than Republicans in the Senate.

Minorities Make Huge Gains in the GOP: One of the great stories of the night was the huge number of women that were elected, last night, especially when it came to governor mansions. Three women were newly elected last night – Indian-American Nikki Haley (South Carolina), Mary Fallin (Oklahoma), and Hispanic-American Susana Martinez (New Mexico). As well, Jan Brewer was able to hold off her re-election challenge in Arizona. Kelly Ayotte won the Senate race in New Hampshire. Tim Scott was elected in South Carolina as the state’s first African-American member of the House. This is a huge night for minority representation. The fact that it happened within the ranks of the GOP, a party that has often been considered as a party of white males, is impressive.

Popularity Trumps Voter Anger: In West Virginia, it was believed that voter anger against President Obama, especially in relation to views on the coal industry, would elect a Republican Senator to replace the late Robert C. Byrd. That was not the case. Instead, the popular Gov. Joe Manchin easily won election to the remaining two-year term. Manchin will quickly become a major power broker in the Senate because of his ability to win in a conservative-leaning state.

Tea Party Movement is to 2010 as Blue Dog is to 2006/2008: In the Democrat Congressional victories of 2006 and 2008, it was Blue Dog Democrats, those whom are moderate-to-conservative, that helped lead the way. These were Democrats that were more moderate or conservative and were elected in conservative-leaning districts. In 2010, it was Tea Party candidates that led the way, especially in Kentucky where Rand Paul knocked off Jack Conway. I think it is early to really understand the election impact of the Tea Party, but my initial guess is that this could be a player in 2012.

2012 Will Be a Major, Major, Major Campaign: If you believe 2010 was intense, you haven’t seen anything yet. The Election of 2012 sets up to be a major fight and, already, questions are looming for the election. Whom will the GOP nominate? How will President Obama recover from a major defeat last night? Will there be a third-party candidate? Some of these questions will be answered in the days and weeks to come. President Obama is scheduled to speak, this afternoon, and that may give some guidance on how 2012 will play.

And, with that, the 2012 election is now underway.

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