Winning the presidency during a time of great national turmoil in 2008, Barack Obama had the potential to forge an enduring governing majority. However, the midterms of 2010 delivered a blow to that hope of a broad coalition. The president’s hard-fought victory in 2012 gave him another four years in the White House, but it did not return Democrats to power in the House. And now, in 2014, the president finds his party being rejected at the polls throughout the country. Purported “blue states” like Massachusetts, Illinois, and Maryland have elected Republican governors. Republicans seem to be heading to their biggest majority in the House in decades. Since the 1980 landslide, Republicans had never beaten more than two incumbent Democrats in Senate races during an election cycle. Yesterday, they defeated three (in Arkansas, Colorado, and North Carolina), and Bill Cassidy has a good chance of defeating a fourth, Mary Landrieu, in the Louisiana run-off election.
Despite the clucking of many media mandarins, this outcome was not preordained. Many of the states in which Republicans triumphed at both the federal and state levels are very amenable to Democrats. Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor is a strong campaigner with a distinguished lineage. He handily won election during the pro-Republican 2002 midterms, and Republicans did not even field a candidate against him in 2008. Democrats won Colorado Senate races in 2004, 2008, and 2012. Arkansas’s Tom Cotton and Colorado’s Cory Gardner were fine candidates (candidate quality does matter), but their campaigns — along with those of many other insurgent Republicans — also relied upon a troubled national landscape.As Franklin Roosevelt’s example shows, a president elected during great unrest can formulate a new governing consensus. But a president who fails to persuade the American public that he has a viable set of policies can also find his administration struggling. And so President Obama’s administration suffered this rebuke at the polls in no small part because of its own failings.
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A few other points:
As Robert Costa explores, the GOP put a lot of work into grooming candidates for this midterm cycle.
I wrote last month about Republican hopes for taking over a House seat or two in Massachusetts. Well, as in other years, these hopes have been disappointed: Richard Tisei lost to Democrat Seth Moulton in the Sixth, and John Chapman lost to incumbent Democratic Bill Keating in the Ninth. Interestingly, while Tisei's campaign generated considerably more interest and money, Chapman ended up finishing much closer than Tisei.
Mickey Kaus and Mark Krikorian focus on the immigration implications of the midterms, finding that voters rebuked the president's agenda on immigration.