Some contests are yet to be called including Virginia, Alaska, and Louisiana (runoff on Dec. 6) as of this moment. However, the writing is on the wall and Republicans will control the US Senate in the next Congress holding at least 54 seats in the chamber.
Taking a look at the fallout, from the perspective of the 2016 Presidential Election, it’s clear there are some very discernible winners and losers which will begin to shape the 2016 landscape. First, the winners of the night.
1. Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin)
Walker was getting dangerously close to a loss in recent weeks yet managed to pull out a very convincing 52% to 47% victory over his Democratic opponent. This was a kitchen sink election with national Democrats throwing everything they had to unseat the union-busting GOP darling. For Walker, this means his 2016 ambitions are on track if he chooses to pursue them. He’s got a 3 and 0 winning record now in one of the toughest environments for a Republican.
2. Republican Governors in general
Aside from Walker in Wisconsin, Republicans won some very tough races for the executive seat in Illinois (!), Maryland (!), Massachusetts (!), Maine, Michigan, Georgia, Nevada, Iowa, and Arkansas. There are other GOP gubernatorial wins as well but they were less competitive. Susana Martinez’s re-election in New Mexico is worth noting also since she has been floated as a possible 2016 contender.
3. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky)
McConnell will become the Senate Majority Leader next year and he too won a hard fought race which saw his lead dwindle to the low single digits in recent weeks. However, the voters told a different story and handed him a massive 56% to 41% victory over his Democratic opponent.
1. President Obama and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada)
Obviously the President will be stuck dealing with a GOP-majority in Congress for the remaining two years of his presidency. This isn’t too surprising as it often happens to Presidents in their second term. Senator Harry Reid will have to relinquish the Majority Leader position and basically become irrelevant on the national stage.
2. Hillary Clinton
This one is debatable but I think it’s worth noting that many candidates running nationally spotlighted races which campaigned with Bill and Hillary Clinton came up short. Most notably in Arkansas which rejected incumbent Mark Pryor in favor on Republican Tom Cotton by a strong 57% to 39%. The Clintons were all over Arkansas in recent weeks campaigning for Pryor and he lost big.
Same story in Maryland where Democratic Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown campaigned with Hillary only a few short days ago. Maryland voters sent the Democrats packing and put Republican Larry Hogan in the Governor’s seat by a 54% to 45% margin. President Obama also campaigned with Brown but it didn’t seem to help, it may have actually hurt.
Repeat this in Kentucky where Hillary Clinton personally stumped for Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes only days ago. Grimes, as noted, went down in a blazing defeat by Republican Mitch McConnell. I think Grimes should ask for her money back.
Also repeat in Georgia where Hillary campaigned for Democrat Michelle Nunn who will go down 53% to 45% at the hands of Republican David Perdue. Georgia was a race Democrats thought they could win so this was a significant loss.
The list continues, I don’t have the space for it all. Here’s a link from ABC 7 which chronicles the list of candidates supported by the Clintons and how they turned out.
3. Charlie Crist (D)
Crist was unable to make a political comeback in Florida barely losing to incumbent Republican Governor Rick Scott by 48% to 47%. This was a race where neither candidate was very well liked but Crist was slightly less liked than Scott.
4. Political family dynasties
Jeb Bush, take note. Candidates in Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and Alaska lost or will end up losing despite their family history in state politics. Take Georgia for example. Democrat Michelle Nunn was running for a position held by her father, Sam Nunn, from 1972 to 1997. Name recognition can help but didn’t push her over the line. The same for Democrat Jason Carter running for Governor in Georgia. Yes, he’s the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, but that also wasn’t enough to carry the day. Democrat Mark Pryor in Arkansas also has a long history in the state, as does Democrat Mark Begich in Alaska, yet both are going down in defeat.
The only bright spot in this area may be Governor Andrew Cuomo in New York where the voters just love voting for anyone named Cuomo.
These are neither winners nor losers yet the 2014 race will shape their political futures.
1. Scott Brown (R)
Brown came dangerously close to beating Democrat Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire but fell just short. This was an amazing accomplishment that will keep his name in the running for a continued future in New England politics.
To Be Determined
1. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Ed Gillespie (R)
This was a race in which polls were giving Mark Warner a 20 point lead at the end of summer. Gillespie slowly chipped away at this lead and now the race is only separated by around 12,000 votes with 95% precincts reported. The results haven’t been finalized yet but I think Warner will eek this one out and retain his seat. This will keep Warner relevant into the 2016 veep-stakes and beyond. However, Ed Gillespie just cemented his place in Virginia politics for years to come running a come-from-behind race down to the wire in a state which was considered either “likely” or “solidly” blue depending on who you asked. This race could be headed for a recount, we’ll know in coming days.
There you have it, there is definitely room for debate and discussion on these points. What was your take away from last night heading into 2016? I didn’t even mentioned Speaker John Boehner who oversaw a 14 seat pickup in the House of Representatives, a largely unreported story of the night. Boehner could also be listed as a winner.
I’d like to also point out that my prediction of a 54 (R) to 46 (D) result will likely turn out to be 100% correct once Alaska and Louisiana eventually go red and Virginia stays blue.
My terribly safe guess: 54 (R) to 46 (D) when we’re done.
RCP map of how I think it shakes out: http://goo.gl/qtrh7G
Victory is sweet.