I never got around to making the “Why the GOP Will Lose” argument – basically thinking that failures to accomplish anything on the major issues of this year (ethics/earmarks, port security, etc.) coupled with the Foley scandal (which exposed factors of hypocrisy, softness on crime, and a drive for victory above all else) helped undermine the GOP’s popularity.
And now, the results are in. The Dems are leading in 232 seats in the House, the GOP in 202, and one district still counting (but the GOP leads there). This is a 29 seat gain for the Democrats. Over in the Senate, the Democrats won nearly every race except Tennessee, with a small but incomplete lead in Virginia all but certain to hand that chamber over to the Senate as well. First time in 12 years the Dems will control both houses of Congress.
This is a decive result, trickling down to a 6-seat gain among governors, and over 275 legislative seats changing hands, tipping many state legislative chambers changing to the Democrats. Moreover, not a single incumbent or open-seat Congressman, Senator, Governor, or legislative chamber among Democrats lost. Every single seat or chamber (except perhaps individual state legislators) that flipped went from Republican to Democrat.
But the impression behind the results is that this wasn’t an angry, pissed off electorate so much as a sober, somber, disappointed electorate providing accountability where the Congress refused to police itself. I say this because the seat gains were built on small victory margins in most seats and some of the large “killing fields” (Florida, Ohio, Colorado) were not as strong as pundits thought.
And this partisan spanking was tilted more heavily in the Northeast than in any other part of the country. Actually, now, the majority party in the U.S. House does not have a majority in the Old Confederacy, the first time this has happened since 1954.
But this is important. Many of the actual gains that occured happened in blue districts. (New Hampshire, for example, flipped from 2 R’s to 2 D’s in the House.) Meanwhile, a number of expected or hoped-for breakthroughs in red states didn’t happen (I was rooting for Idaho-1, Wyoming, and Nebraska-3), while some shockers did happen in blue districts (NH-01, KY-03, IA-02). In fact, only in Kansas 02 (and perhaps Arizona 05) was there a shift in a red district that was unexpected.
This means that despite the close results, Democrats won mostly in blue or purple/pink districts, meaning that as incumbents in a majority party, they’ll have a much easier time holding on for re-election. Meanwhile, the few GOPers who held on in a close race may not actually get any breathing room in 2008 (I’m thinking of you, Reps. Shays and Pryce).
The Senate, assuming Webb holds out as expected, and turns the chamber Democratic, is also very likely to remain in their hands going into 2008, because more Republicans are up for grabs than Democrats (21 to 12).
In fact, the main play for 2008 in Congress may depend on minority Republicans choosing to retire. In the House, some of these may be domino-results from a Senate retirement (if Senator John Warner retires, then Congressman Tom Davis in a competitive swing district may retire himself to run for the open Senate seat).
Honestly, as long as the Democrats don’t screw this up, and admittedly I’m saying this two years from the election, I can probably predict tonight that they will hold both houses of Congress in 2008. (I’d predict small gains for them in the Senate and an even result to a single-digit loss in the House.)
Definitely good news for the Democrats, even as the angry roar of an electorate predicted by the pundits turned out to be sour, disappointed, but sober rebuke to an unpopular President.