Results are still pouring in, and probably will be for the next 24 hours, but the writing on the wall for Democrats on Tuesday night (November 2) is clear: A change is gonna come.
Nearly two years after President Barack Obama swept into power on a wave of excitement and promises of change that helped Democrats gain control of the White House and both houses of Congress in a rare political hat trick, voters gave the president’s ambitious agenda a harsh rebuke in the midterm elections. According to the Huffington Post, exit polls showed that voters were very worried about the economy and not happy with the way Obama and Congress had handled the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, leading many to vote for Republicans or for candidates from the protest Tea Party.
In all, CNN projected that Republicans would pick up well above the 39 seats needed to take control of the 435-member House of Representatives. With possibly as many as 52 seats switching to the R column, a major sea change was afoot that could radically change the ability of President Obama to pass some of his major legislative priorities, and put other victories, such as the landmark health care bill, in danger of being picked apart or stalled.
Among the most decisive wins Tuesday night was the one by rising Republican star and Tea Party darling Marco Rubio in Florida, who beat Republican-turned-independent Charlie Crist for a Senate seat in one of the states that has become pivotal in recent election cycles. In Ohio, another state that has been one of the deciding factors in the past two presidential elections, Republican Rob Portman beat out Democrat Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher for the Senate.
One of the toughest and nastiest Senate races of the season was also won by a Republican, as Tea Party favorite Rand Paul took the Senate race in Kentucky, while one of the upstart party’s other potential stars, Christine O’Donnell (best known for her “I am not a witch” campaign ad) lost her bid for Senate in Delaware.
It’s unclear how many seats the new party-without-a-leader will pick up in all, but the next challenge will be how traditional Republicans will work with the Tea Party to govern given some of the TP’s more radical ideas, such as getting rid of the federal income tax in favor of a flat tax and eliminating the Department of Education. While Republican leaders were ebullient about their big victories on Tuesday night, there were reports that some Tea Party candidates were already putting the party on notice that they would not necessarily fall in line and play by Washington business-as-usual rules.
With the out-of-power party typically gaining three seats in the Senate in midterms since World War II, Republicans were on track to double that number with an expected pickup of seven seats, according to Fox News’ Karl Rove. Even with that swing, though, control of the Senate was expected to stay in Democratic hands, if only by a razor-thin margin.
Among the Republican incumbents picking up wins was longtime Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, as well as five-term Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa, while Arkansas’ John Boozman was projected to beat incumbent Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln. Adding to the W’s in the Republican’s column in the Senate was conservative Dan Coats’ projected win to take over the seat held by retiring Democrat Evan Bayh in Indiana, as well as John Hoeven’s win in North Dakota.
Republican WWE executive Linda McMahon faced a serious smackdown in her bid to win a Senate seat in Connecticut, losing to Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal despite spending tens of millions of her own fortune. West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin was projected to win in that state’s Senate race, while the results were too close to call at press time in Illinois in the bitter race to fill the Senate seat vacated by President Obama, with Republican Mark Kirk and rising Democratic star Alexi Giannoulias separated by just 1 percent.
Though this was painted as the year when incumbents were in danger of getting tossed in favor of fresh faces, a number of senators were projected to hold onto their seats, including Democrats Patrick Leahy (Vermont), Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (New York) and Barbara Mikulski (Maryland), as well as Republicans Tom Coburn (Oklahoma), Richard Burr (North Carolina), Richard Shelby (Alabama) and South Carolina’s Jim DeMint, who has emerged as the veteran voice of the Tea Party and the person who could help integrate the insurgent movement into Congress.
For other incumbents, it was a tough night, as longtime Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold was projected to lose to Republican Ron Johnson. With only 37 of its 100 seats in play, the Senate was projected to remain in Democratic hands, though key races in Washington and Nevada were still up for grabs at press time. In one of the closest races, Nevada’s Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate majority leader, was in the political fight of his life against Republican challenger Sharron Angle. At press time, Democrats were projected to hold 48 seats in the Senate while Republicans picked up four to bump up to 44, with 50 needed for control of the chamber.
It was a tough night for Democrats in an often harsh campaign season in which candidates spent more than $3.5 billion. Many pundits speculated that, like fellow Democrat Bill Clinton after his party was handed a crushing defeat in midterms in 1994, the losses may force Obama to work more closely with his Republican rivals. The burden of control of at least one house of Congress and the ability to more effectively stymie legislation in the Senate could also force Republicans to come up with some concrete, workable ideas for pulling the country out of its economic malaise after being tagged with the nickname “The Party of No” due to their obstruction of many of Obama’s policies.
There are plenty more results to come over the course of the night, so check back with MTV News on Wednesday morning for all the latest news on Tuesday’s midterm elections.