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By Tim Montgomerie

In this blog:

(1) THE HEADLINE RESULTS FROM LAST NIGHT'S MID-TERMS

(2) THE ENCOURAGING POLITICAL CONCLUSIONS FOR THE REPUBLICANS

(3) DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE WHAT DEMOCRATS ACHIEVED OVER THE LAST TWO YEARS AND THE CURRENT ABSENCE OF A CLEAR, FORWARD-LOOKING REPUBLICAN AGENDA.

(1) THE HEADLINE RESULTS FROM LAST NIGHT'S MID-TERMS

6a00d83451b31c69e20120a651c972970b The pollsters and pundits got nearly everything right in yesterday's US mid-terms:

  • The Republicans won the House of Representatives by a decisive margin. They'll win about 60 extra seats on latest expectations; a much larger swing than in any normal mid-term elections. In 2006 when the Democrats retook the House they won thirty seats and that was called a "landslide".
  • The Democrats held the Senate and the Democratic leader of the Senate, Harry Reid, held his own seat.
  • The Republicans made six gains in the Senate, however, including Barack Obama's old seat in Illinois. By 2% the Republican free marketeer Pat Toomey beat the union man Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania.
  • The Tea Party's women candidates did relatively poorly, notably in Nevada and Delaware.
  • The GOP won Governorships in swing states, including Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Mexico and Pennsylvania.
  • The Democrats continue to dominate in California, defeating two high-spending Republican businesswomen to hold the Senate seat of Barbara Boxer and to restore Jerry Brown to the Governor's mansion. The state hasn't gone completely liberal, however, rejecting a measure that would have decriminalised cannabis.

(2) THE ENCOURAGING POLITICAL CONCLUSIONS FOR THE REPUBLICANS

The Republicans should win the Senate in 2012 whatever else happens in the race for the White House. Democrats will be defending three-quarters of the 33/34 seats up for re-election because they won big when they were last contested, in 2006. A re-elected Obama will therefore face a Capitol Hill controlled by the GOP or, alternatively, the GOP will control all of Washington and have the same opportunity that Obama has just enjoyed.

The Republicans are competitive again in many more battleground states. The electoral geography has been transformed since 2008. In Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Jersey and Ohio, in particular, the GOP have made big gains at every level of government. Blue states have become either red or purple.

The GOP will now control redistricting in many battleground states, including Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Alabama, Michigan and Wisconsin because of big gains in state legislatures. This redistricting will be decisive in close races over the next decade.

Rubio-marco-with-tom-lee The last two years have seen future Republican heroes emerge. Chris Christie, elected last year as Governor of New Jersey, is already box office. Marc Rubio (pictured), the new Hispanic Senator for Florida, also looks like a star-in-the-making.

Will the Tea Party Movement recognise its excesses? The Movement won many victories last night but it also nominated certain candidates – Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell – over much more electable candidates and lost. Will more realism creep into the TPM's thinking or will they remain purist? David Frum hopes so.

The Republicans need to find a candidate to defeat Obama in 2012. The President has suffered a bigger setback than Reagan in 1982 or Clinton in 1994. His approval ratings are below the crucial 50% mark, making him vulnerable. Nonetheless, unless the GOP can find a credible challenger he will be re-elected.

(3) DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE WHAT DEMOCRATS ACHIEVED OVER THE LAST TWO YEARS AND THE CURRENT ABSENCE OF A CLEAR, FORWARD-LOOKING REPUBLICAN AGENDA

Pelosi The Democrats will need new leadership in the House. Nancy Pelosi, the now defeated Democratic Speaker, was too polarising but as Reihan Salam blogs, her place in the history books is secured:

"Progressives should be profoundly grateful to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Many on the left have praised the president for advancing bold legislation despite ferocious opposition from the political right. But let’s not forget that at many critical points, the White House seemed willing to scale back or even abandon its policy objectives. Scott Brown’s surprise victory in Massachusetts panicked many leading Democrats, including Rahm Emanuel, into backing a pared-back approach to health-insurance reform. Speaker Pelosi pressed forth. Agree or disagree with her, it seems fairly clear that Speaker Pelosi deserves much of the credit, and the blame, for a truly historic expansion of the federal government’s size, power, and reach."

Exra Klein makes almost exactly the same point, pointing to laws on healthcare, financial regulation, the stimulus and fair pay:

"What's been uncommon about the past two years is that the Democrats in Congress managed to put aside enough of their disagreements to get big, important things done, things they really believed would make this country better, things they'd been fighting and working for and trying to do for decades… If they failed as politicians, they succeeded as legislators. And legislating is, at least in theory, what they came to Washington to do."

The GOP now have some power in a country where the characteristics that made America exceptional are being fast eroded. In the next two years House Republicans will set the budget, subject to the White House's veto. Do they have the courage to make cuts that will restore sanity to America's finances? And, most importantly, can they develop an agenda which – with a Republican president – they can enact from 2012 that will do more than reverse the Obama-Pelosi settlement but will restore American economic vitality?

55 comments for: The Republicans make historic gains but can they undo the huge legislative achievements of the Obama-Pelosi sprint?

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