Election 2014: The aftermath

Rise and shine, campers! Today we clean up the site of the victory party, drag the empty champagne bottles out for recycling and get read to go back to work. The result was absolutely a wave.

Republicans also are projected to retain control of the House — and gain at least 12 seats, expanding their majority beyond their post-World War II record of 246 seats set in 1946.

The landscape means Republicans will have new powers to challenge Obama’s agenda in the final two years of his term, able to launch investigations and hold hearings from both chambers; hold up key appointments; and pass GOP-favored legislation, if only to force the president to employ his veto pen. The division of power also could yield areas of agreement, on areas ranging from immigration to energy — though the Affordable Care Act and efforts to undermine it could continue to sour talks on other issues.

McConnell, after winning his own race, said some things won’t change next year — but stressed that lawmakers and the White House don’t have to be in “perpetual conflict” and “have an obligation to work together.”

“Tomorrow, the papers will say I won this race, but the truth is … tonight we begin another one, one that’s far more important than mine — and that’s the race to turn this country around,” McConnell said in Louisville.

Things went just about as well as they could have in the Senate. Scott Brown may have lost, but pretty much everything else where the Republican was in contention went red. Many of the governor’s races went to the GOP as well, and the ones that didn’t were closer than expected. (Ed Gillespie was written off as road kill some time ago and even he came within a couple of points of winning.) At least 250 seats in the house. Just … wow.

Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways, as noted by Nate Silver on TV last night, was that the polls were off. And they weren’t off by a little. They were heavily biased in favor of the Democrats this time. Races we were supposed to lose came in with slim victories. Races which were supposed to be razor thin came in with a wide margin. Kansas might have been the biggest shocker. The RCP average was showing Orman with an almost one point margin of victory yesterday, but Pat Roberts wound up winning by more than ten points. Joni Ernst was up by two in the polls and ended up winning by 9.

How did they wind up getting all of this so wrong?

But the real question now shifts to what the GOP will do with their newly restored power. The President wasn’t exactly gracious last night, as Noah already noted, but McConnell is claiming that he’s ready to work with the White House to get something done. I’m not sure if that happens, but even if it doesn’t, the narrative shifts. If Republicans can assemble some popular legislation on things like Keystone, tightening the borders and tax reform, those bills will now make it to the White House having been crafted by the legislators the people chose. If Barack Obama just shoots them all down, nobody with an ounce of credibility will be saying that it’s the Republicans who are the obstructionists. And that may just wash over into 2016.

In closing, this rather gracious message from the RNC:

“The American people have put their trust in the Republican Party, sending a GOP majority to the U.S. Senate. I want to congratulate all our candidates tonight,” said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. “Our party’s principles and message resonated with voters across the country. This was a rejection of President Obama’s failed polices and Harry Reid’s dysfunctional Senate.

“By investing early across this country, the RNC was able to provide critical support to our candidates and campaigns. The RNC has been involved in communities across this country, building relationships and listening to voters. We built an unprecedented data and digital operation, allowing us to reach voters and equip a winning ground game. I want to thank all of our supporters, volunteers, and donors who made this possible.