How stand the correlation of forces in American politics?
In the national elections for president, House, and Senate, American voters confirmed the status quo. Not the status quo of 2008 where Democrats had 59/60 Senators, 256 House members and a president swept into office with a 7 point margin against a war hero. Last night voters confirmed the status quo of the 2010 election which brought a strong, united Republican majority in the House and enough Republican senators to filibuster any particular piece of legislation and a weakened, but re-elected president.
Obama won by two percentage points in 2012. He had a 7 point margin in 2008. His margin fell five points. Obama's total vote fell three points from 53 percent to 50 percent. When Reagan was re-elected in 1984 he increased his vote from 50.7 to 58.8 percent and his margin from 9.7 to 18.2 percent. Clinton increased his vote from 43 to 49 percent, a six point jump. And even George W. Bush increased his vote three points: from 48 to 51 percent. Bush's margin rose from minus one to plus 2.4 percent.
A presidential mandate? Obama ran his campaign firmly establishing that he had the permission of the American people to not be that guy Romney.
Republicans had hoped to replace Obama and win a majority of the U.S. Senate. They failed. Republicans will have a shot at winning the Senate in 2014 when 20 Democrats stand for re-election -- all of whom won in the landslide year of 2008 -- and only 13 Republican senators (who survived the 2008 blue tsunami) are technically vulnerable. The presidency is open again in four years. But while the GOP must wait two and four years to alter the power equation in Washington, the Democrats will likely have a longer wait for a real shot at changing the House. Republicans re-elected the class of 2010 that ran in 2012 in spanking new districts that will now remain unchanged for the 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections. Congressmen that have learned how to get elected in districts -- against the headwind of a re-elected president of the opposite party -- tend to settle in to a series of re-elections interrupted only by the cruelties of redistricting at decade's end.
To themselves and others, Republicans must explain why they failed to defeat a president with a lackluster economic record and Democrats must explain why they failed to defeat a House majority they claimed was extreme, amateurish, unpopular and the result of a premature verdict on the Obama record.
At the state level, Republicans increased their governorships from 29 to 30 by replacing a Democratic governor in North Carolina with Pat McCrory. Republicans gained 720 state legislators and 21 state legislative bodies in 2010. That gain was little changed in 2012. The tide did not recede.
In January there will be 13 states with a Democratic governor and both houses of the legislature run by Democratic majorities. Republicans, meanwhile, will have 24 states with united GOP control.
The Republicans will have a larger canvas on which to enact their legislative proposals of education reform/parental choice in education, reining in public sector union and pension abuses, lowering taxes and defenestrating the tort lawyers. California and Illinois and Maryland can show how one can raise taxes rather than reform government. The shouting match in Washington will be accompanied by real yardage gained and lost by the two competing world views in the arenas of the 50 states. We will see what works. And what doesn't. And which states people leave. Or enter. Keep an eye on the Illinois/Indiana border. Then we have another election in 2014 and 2016.
Republicans confirmed their gains in 2010 at the national and state level. They won a majority of the House having voted to pass the Ryan Budget which does both tax reform and entitlement reform. These were not the third rail of American politics. The GOP won the senior vote -- "Mediscare" did not work as the Democrats hoped. The Democrats held the Senate by not writing a budget. Not showing their agenda. Not allowing votes on the issues Obama will claim he has a "mandate."
This election showed Republicans in the House the "Path to Prosperity" authored by Paul Ryan was not simply sound on principle, but a political advantage. They have an agenda. They voted for it. They won re-election. The Democrats in the Senate and the White House will eventually have to write down something and vote for it. Then we can have the national debate that was deliberately avoided in the election.