Obama retains an important ally in the Senate — embattled Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who will retain his Nevada Senate seat against Tea Party-backed rival, Sharron Angle. Although pre-election polls had shown Angle slightly ahead of Reid and favorable among Independents, the final vote hovered at 50% to 45% in Reid’s favor. The outcome of the Reid-Angle race does not come without surprise. Angle had out-raised Reid in campaign funds and the languishing state economy had made Reid extremely vulnerable. Indeed, coupled with Reid’s strong disapproval ratings and association with the Obama agenda, many have conjectured throughout the campaign that had Reid faced a stronger opponent, a Republican victory would have been assured. Instead, Angle seems to have gone the way of Tea Party darling and Senate hopeful Christine O’Donnell who, although close at the end, could not produce a victory in Delaware. If anything, the Tea Party factor in the 2010 election seems to have been a “wild card,” with unpredictable success. Although not enough for Sharron Angle, who was sometimes maligned by the association, Tea Party support did work in the favor of Marco Rubio and for Kentucky Congressman Rand Paul, now Republican Senator-elect Rand Paul.
At the dawning of Barack Obama’s presidency, commentators on the Left had declare the Republican Party moribund. Encouraged by optimistic polling trends, which seemed to reflect an electorate becoming steadily more liberal, left-wing pundits were openly exuberant at the prospect of an imminently defunct GOP. Instead, a mere 21 months later, what we have is a Republican Party making election gains of historic proportions. How did we get here?
To construe the outcome of the mid-term election as a mandate for a new conservative era would be a mistake. In fact, immense losses suffered by Democrats are suggestive of a party that has fallen under its own weight — and victim to its own myopia. With the past two elections falling handily to Democrats, and especially with the incredible popularity of the Obama administration in the 2008 election, Democrats interpreted a call for bolder, more proactive government. In more hospitable circumstances, the “hope and change” program might have been successful. But a series of heretofore inconceivable private sector bailouts, promises of quick government fixes, a protracted recession, and lingering unemployment careened the national focus toward fiscal concerns. The Democratic establishment, however, seized upon the carte blanche provided by its control over both the legislature and the executive office, and pursued an ambitious agenda. Perhaps appropriate for 2006, but not appropriate for 2010. In this sense, when Democrats lament their “inherited” misfortunes, they are then largely correct, but for their failure to prioritize wisely in light of these circumstances, they have justly suffered the consequences.
Broadly speaking, the overreach of the Obama administration and the Democratic establishment spurred the conservative sector of the electorate to action and disenchanted huge swathes of independent voters. What Democrats lacked in enthusiasm, therefore, they also lost in the indispensable and mercurial Independents. It is a mighty but tenuous margin for Republicans, but with the wealth of new figures and their noteworthy diversity, it is one that may provide the opportunity to change the face of the party for many elections to come.
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