Just a few personal leftover musings from a historic night ….
First off, I always have fun on Election Night, regardless of outcome, because it always reminds me of how blessed we are to have a stable electoral system that (nearly) always reflects the will of the electorate. No one who sat through the 2006 and 2008 campaigns could seriously doubt that the electorate intended to deliver a spanking to the GOP and succeeded in doing so. The same holds for last night, in the reverse.
However, I’d be lying if I said that 2006 and 2008 were anywhere near as enjoyable as last night, for obvious reasons, and especially 2006. On that night when Democrats took over both chambers of Congress, I took part in a CNN blogger special at a coffee house in DC filled with bloggers from across the political spectrum. We had a great time hanging out with each other, and most of them were gracious in victory, but getting hit with a major loss while on national TV isn’t the most pleasant feeling in the world. Watching your party take control of your state legislature from the confines of GOP HQ? Better.
That doesn’t mean it was a perfect night, though. We had some disappointments along with some pleasant surprises in what was a banner night for Republicans nationwide. Here are my nominations for the best — and worst — of the 2010 Wave.
- Biggest nailbiter – Pennsylvania. While Illinois looked better than the first numbers showed, because much of it came out of Chicago, I couldn’t get a handle at all on Pat Toomey’s eventual narrow victory over Joe Sestak. It looked as though it was slipping away late into the count, but Toomey’s districts finally arrived to carry him over the top. I believe I actually said, “Whew!” when media outlets began calling it for Toomey.
- Biggest victory – Mark Kirk beats Alexi Giannoulias in Illinois. Not only does Kirk take the seat immediately to fill out the remaining term left on interim Senator Roland Burris’ term, but Kirk takes the seat that propelled Barack Obama to the presidency.
- Most disappointing – Nevada. I was prepared to lose California and Connecticut as the states are blue anyway, but Republicans had a good shot at winning Nevada. Reid has lost popularity in the state, and his son went down to a humiliating defeat at the top of the ticket for governor. Even after the networks called it, I was asking everyone whether the numbers looked right to them.
- The Here We Go Again Award – Washington, where Dino Rossi may wind up in yet another recount in what we knew was a close, close race.
- The Schadenfreude Award/Most Satisfying – Alan Grayson gets an 18-point walloping after one of the sleaziest campaigns ever. Congratulations to Dan Webster.
- Biggest victory – I’d call this a tie between SC-05 and VA-05, with perhaps a little MO-04 thrown in as well. Tom Perriello’s defeat in Virginia came after a high-profile intervention by Barack Obama which reinforced the national-referendum aspect of the midterms. In terms of impact in the House, though, the loss of two major chairs by the Democrats is a hard slap across the face. Ike Skelton (MO) chairs the Armed Services Committee and John Spratt (SC) the Budget Committee — you know, the one that failed to produce a budget despite a 77-seat majority in the House. Democratic leadership just took a big kick in the teeth.
- Biggest victory (personal) – I have gotten to know a few of the candidates over the past month, and I’m thrilled to see Renee Ellmers (NC-02) and Chip Cravaack (MN-08) win upsets over entrenched incumbents. Ellmers ran against Bob Etheridge, who attained YouTube immortality for putting a cameraman in a headlock while demanding, “Who are you?” Oberstar gets to live in a district he has only visited over the last 50 years … finally.’
- The Comet Kohoutek Award for Least-Deserving Hype over Competitiveness – I’ll give this one to MN-06, where Democrats poured money while explaining that Michele Bachmann was vulnerable in this election cycle. They even sent Bill Clinton into the district more than once to campaign for Tarryl Clark. Bachmann just barely managed to get by … by thirteen points. Clark didn’t even get to 40%.
- Biggest disappointment – Thankfully, we didn’t have many of these. If I had to pick one, I’d say NY-22’s decision to stick with Maurice Hinchey after he assaulted a reporter, demanded the nationalization of the oil industry, and opposed the natural-gas industry was one of the most bizarre.
- Biggest disappointment (Minnesota edition) – Teresa Collett ran a note-perfect campaign in MN-04 against an incumbent who told voters that “al-Qaeda no longer poses a threat to the United States” eight days before al-Qaeda launched a parcel-bomb attack against our cargo systems. The D+13 district gave Betty McCollum a 24-point win over Teresa, who clearly deserved much better. Too bad the same can’t be said of St. Paul voters.
- Best news no one was watching – The GOP wins in gubernatorial and state legislature elections positions the party for a decade of ascendance.
- Best web tools on Election Night – Thanks to very spotty internet connections at the GOP HQ last night, I had to be very particular about what sites I used to update my data. It may be anathema to write this, but the New York Times had the best tools to follow the races without question. Easier to load than most, the graphical displays and roll-over data made it easy to keep up with fast-changing results, and their updates appeared constant.