It's rare I do a political post, but last night's sea change was worthy of one this morning. So here are some quick takes of mine on last night's contests:
(1) Republicans win the Senate: And this is with voting counts still finishing up in Virginia and Alaska, and with a run-off in Louisiana still to come that threatens to send incumbent Mary Landrieu into the private sector. Republicans had been pointing to this election as a referendum on Democrat policies and they capitalized on a furious electorate.
(2) The way the Republicans won: As much as I can appreciate the raw grassroots power of the Tea Party from 2010 (not saying I agree with them on all ideology, just saying I respect it as a political force), what intrigued me was the Republicans showed a more varied playbook this time around. They showed they could run more than one style of offense. The strategy of the Republican national leadership hand-picking solid contenders from safe districts and having them run against vulnerable Democrat candidates was a masterstroke. While the Democrats went for a "Hail Mary" attempt of dumping $60M in ads, the GOP went for a solid ground game of three yards and a cloud of dust. This time, steady won the race, by and large.
(3) Surprises, part 1: I was surprised that a couple of vulnerable GOP senators held onto their seats, and by wide margins. Mitch McConnell in Kentucky ended up cruising to a 15-point win over Alison Grimes. Pat Roberts got ground help and a come-to-Jesus talk from iconic Bob Dole (iconic in Kansas, anyway) to swallow up and reverse the margin that left-leaning independent Greg Orman held just a week before the election.
(4) Surprises, part 2: Holy cow, those gubernatorial races! A close one in Florida between incumbent Rick Scott (R) and former governor Charlie Crist (D) had decent turnout due to a marijuana initiative being on the ballot, too. Scott prevailed by a narrow margin, meaning that Crist has now lost races as a Republican, independent, and a Democrat. Sam Brownback, the GOP incumbent governor of Kansas who has struggled this year, was down five points last week to Paul Davis (D) but stormed back to win by four. And what's with the fury in places like Illinois, Massachusetts, and my former home state of Maryland? Those normally safe blue states flipped to red for Republican governors. Now it remains to be seen if those GOP guys can lead beyond the campaign season.
(5) Fear has its limits: Sorry, but tagging the South with the "racist" label--whether you do it before the election or the morning afterwards--is so intellectually flaccid and passé. And while we're on the subject (and breaking for a moment my pledge to refrain from any Ferguson, MO-related commentary), trying to ignite voters in Georgia by saying if a certain candidate gets elected then Michael Brown-like tragedies could be close at hand is petty and cruel. It does no justice to Michael Brown's family; it does no favors to the judicial process here in St. Louis; and it backfires.
(6) Fear has its limits, part 2: And by the way, this whole "war on women" narrative has lost steam and sounds like pathetic whining. This is because (a) much of America has figured out that one's position on abortion does NOT equal denial of contraception to women, (b) it's turning Democrats into single-issue pulpit-thumpers when I wish they'd engage the issues more frequently so people can make informed choices, and (c) Todd Akin is nowhere around this election cycle, so you can't drag the "legitimate rape" comment out of mothballs.
(7) This is one night; the hard part follows: Leadership, forming coalitions, and spearheading movements takes time. The Republican majority, President Obama's response, and where we go from here will take time to build. And people who love the GOP (I say this as an outsider, an independent voter with neo-libertarian leanings), should recognize that a number of these Senators-elect are more RINO (Republican in name only) than conservative (cough, Tillis in North Carolina, cough).
(8) The Democrats have some soul-searching to do: This is a party that has held together a fragile winning coalition of minorities and gentry liberals with some Wall Street glue and George Soros cash. But now the Democrats may be running into some strong headwinds and recognizing what Walter Mondale found out in the 1984 election: Promising the world to everyone in your big tent means making contradictory pledges, which leads to (unintentionally) setting allies within your party against each other and (more intentionally) alienating the middle class. As Republicans look for someone to pick up the Reagan mantle, Dems need to find someone in the Bill Clinton (whom I rather like personally) mold or the party is in danger of splintering beyond recognition.
(9) 2016? Two years is a long way away. But this I believe: Whoever comes out of either party as the nominee has to have centrist credentials with strong, respected connections to the party primary base. The Republicans could find Marco Rubio as a diamond in the rough, or try to convince Mitch Daniels of Indiana to run based on his fiscal wonderworking at the state level. But the field will feature moderates like Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, although Herman Cain could be an interesting force in the mix. The Democrats? They really--in my honest opinion--need someone like Joe Manchin of West Virginia or Jim Webb of Virginia to navigate these waters. But that's just me.
(10) The nice thing...about an election? Win or lose, life goes on in America. I'm a published author, I have a great job, and I have a wife who loves me with whom I have three remarkably wonderful children (one of whom is with the Lord now). You can't ask for better than that, no matter who is in Washington.