The ingredients were present for a big Republican night. Fundraising was strong, the national mood favored Republicans, President Obama was becoming more unpopular by the day, but most importantly, our candidates were incredible. They were stronger, more positive, more versed in the issues, and inspired more confidence than their Democrat counterparts. Nevertheless, you can’t take anything for granted in politics. Nothing is ever guaranteed until the results start coming in.
But from the moment that the first polls closed and precincts started reporting it was clear that a Republican wave was forming. All told, Republican candidates won at least 10 (and likely 11) of the day’s 13 closely contested Senate races, including states like Iowa and Colorado, and were incredibly close to pulling off shocking upsets in Virginia and New Hampshire. The GOP also picked up 10 more seats in the House, giving us the largest majority since the 1928 elections. And the party secured stunning gubernatorial victories in one-time deep blue states like Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts, on their way to picking up as many as five governorships.
Before the election everyone was asking what would count as a good night for Republicans. The New York Times’ Ross Douthat now has the answer:
This counts. Control of the Senate with room to spare, easy victories in what were supposed to be tight purple-state races and even easier victories in red states, an unexpected nailbiter in Virginia and an upset win in North Carolina, Rick Scott and Scott Walker re-elected, gubernatorial wins all over the map in deep blue states, a historically-large House majority … it’s a wave, it’s a thumping, it’s whatever metaphor you favor to describe a major repudiation of the president and his party.
There will be plenty of time to discuss what this means for the next two years, for policy and legislation, for 2016. For tonight, it’s enough to say that what we’ve just watched unfold does not fit easily into the models that many pundits have been using to analyze American politics these last few years — models which allowed for a good Republican performance this year (it being an unrepresentative midterm and all) but did not allow for anything quite this good, this sweeping, this geographically-comprehensive.
Not too long ago Democrats were purportedly building a permanent majority. They thought they had demographics on their side, including strong majorities among young adults and Hispanics, who would grow into a deep blue, rock solid voter base. Combined with their tried-and-true ground game, tech-savvy voter database, and growing fundraising infrastructure, everyone seemed to assume that Democrats may not always win, but they would never lose big.
Well, they lost big. Historically big.
None of that is to say that the Republican Party does not face long term demographic challenges or that the conservative brand has been completely rehabilitated. It’s just to say that adaptation, not necessarily of fundamental ideals, but of how they are messaged to meet today’s challenges, can happen quicker than pundits expect. Republicans succeeded because in fairly short order they proved to voters that they were a reasonable, pragmatic alternative to what was broken in Washington. Democrats failed because they took their dominance for granted, especially among voting groups, like young adults, who catapulted them to victory in recent presidential elections.
The race for the heart of the country is never truly over, after all we’ll be back with a more difficult map in just two years. And the political mood of the nation is always, always cyclical, even when we’ve managed to convince ourselves that it’s not. But despite those truths, Republicans have created a tremendous opportunity for themselves. They now have the chance to have their voices heard, their bills passed, and their priorities discussed.
That’s a tremendous opportunity, but it’s also a tremendous responsibility. Voters put their trust in our party yesterday. Starting today it’s up to us to show that trust was not misplaced.