LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- When the crowd at Mitch McConnell's election party first learned their candidate had won a sixth term in the Senate, the reaction was somewhat less than euphoric. A few yelps of excitement erupted here and there, but it seemed as if no one wanted to stand out by making a fuss. It took a few minutes, but the cheers eventually coalesced into something resembling a roar.
It was a decidedly understated bunch. Men in blazers with prep school haircuts had been mingling with demure women sporting bleach-blond helmet hairdos. Many of their children -- themselves seemingly straight out of a Crewcuts catalog -- noshed on complimentary bags of popcorn.
There were flashes of eclecticism, like the two young men toting a sign reading "COME AT ME BRO" featuring a picture of McConnell holding out his arms. Otherwise, the room felt less like a raucous, eardrum-shattering political celebration and more like history's rowdiest Presbyterian church mixer.
Up on the stage, a slew of speakers delivered boilerplate speeches praising McConnell and thanking campaign workers. Kentucky's other Republican senator, Rand Paul, delivered the most brilliantly literal line of the entire 2014 election season:
"Thank you, Kentucky! We couldn't have done it without you!"
Then, to booming -- if not quite thunderous -- applause, McConnell, the next Senate majority leader, took the stage. "The voters said we can have real change in Washington and that's what I plan to deliver," McConnell told supporters. But the evening and its revelers embodied McConnell's campaign to convince voters they didn't need flash and style -- they needed a 30-year Senate veteran who's as traditional as the repp ties sported by many of the evening's guests.
Throughout his campaign, McConnell gave voters ample reminders that he was not a flashy candidate like his opponent, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.
While Grimes honed razor-sharp zingers ("If Mitch McConnell were a TV show, he’d be ‘Mad Men’ -- treating women unfairly, stuck in 1968 and ending this season!”), McConnell often appeared stiff and uncomfortable, smiling with such middling success that "McConnelling" -- literally the act of smiling awkwardly -- became a meme.
While Grimes hosted political celebrities like Bill and Hillary Clinton and garnered donations from Hollywood A-listers like Ben Affleck and Tom Hanks, McConnell held events with Lee Greenwood, of "Proud To Be An American" fame. “He’s gonna be the man,” Greenwood exclaimed to the Louisville Courier-Journal about McConnell.
Ultimately, it was the down-to-business lure of having one of Washington's most influential legislators represent them that likely attracted moderate Republicans and undecideds to McConnell's camp.
"I think a lot of people in Kentucky understand the relevance of voting for the guy that could be in charge of the Senate," said Steve Robertson, chairman of the state Republican Party.
That sentiment was echoed by Damon Thayer, majority leader of the Kentucky state senate. "We have arguably the best one-two punch of senators in the United States Senate," said Thayer, referring to McConnell and Paul, who is widely expected to run for president in 2016. "People don't want to give that up for a back-bencher."
Earlier in the day, in Louisville's middle-class Highland neighborhood, moderate and independent voters expressed a desire to hold onto McConnell's clout in the Senate. Even some Democrats admitted that the lure of McConnell's leadership status was hard to deny.
"I like his experience. He's going to be the most powerful man in the Republican Party," said Geoff Snyder, a youth development professional who has supported Democrats, including Rep. John Yarmuth, who represents Louisville in the House.
Back at McConnell's election party, the muted revelry continued. A selection of lively, if somewhat stale, country music emanated from the sound system, occasionally interrupted by screenings of McConnell's campaign commercials and features. Off to the side, a group of older men fiddled with their smartphones.
"Have you gone on the YouTube?" one asked in an admittedly extreme example of the crowd's somewhat hidebound ways.
"Haven't even heard of it!" the other replied.
Asked if he would have a celebratory drink, the first man waved his hand dismissively. "I gotta get home tonight!" he exclaimed.
BEFORE YOU GO
11/05/2014 8:27 AM EST
Christie: GOP Wins Show Focus On Leadership
The AP reported Wednesday:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says Republican victories in governor's races across the country show voters want leaders who will "get things done," rather that fighting over ideology.
Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association and a possible 2016 candidate for president, said he was gratified by GOP wins in Democratic-leaning states such as Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois, as well as victories in key swing states like Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio.
Christie said voters "elect and re-elect governors to get things done."
Christie, who campaigned for GOP candidates across the country, said the winners deserve the credit, not him. He said elections are "always about the candidate."
Christie spoke Wednesday on NBC's "Today" show, ABC's "Good Morning America" and Fox News Channel.
11/05/2014 7:46 AM EST
President Obama To Address Midterm Results In Afternoon Press Conference
President Barack Obama will speak to the press Wednesday afternoon to address his party's resounding loss in the 2014 midterm elections, according to White House press secretary Josh Earnest. He is expected to strike a tone of compromise and accountability following a Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate and many of the nation's gubernatorial offices.
Obama tried reached out to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is widely expected to be the next senate majority leader and who also won re-election Tuesday night, and left a message, CNN reported.
The president's press conference will take place at 2:50 p.m. Eastern time from the East Room of the White House.
11/05/2014 6:57 AM EST
Indictment, Dog Killing, Infidelity Overcome By GOP Candidates
How bad was it for Democrats? Rep. Michael Grimm, a Republican facing a 20-count indictment won in New York and another known for outbursts of rage and killing a beagle, Mike Bost, won a seat in President Barack Obama's home state of Illinois that had been Democratic for 70 years.
Down in Tennessee, Rep. Scott DesJarlais' past infidelities and pushing of abortion on a mistress continued to not matter to voters, who handed him a landslide victory.
There were a couple of bright spots for Democrats, or at least the more moderate crowd. Florida Rep. Steve Southerland lost to Democrat Gwen Graham after holding an all-male fundraiser and joking about Graham in lingerie. And in Louisiana, GOP Rep. Vance McAllister, dubbed the "Kissing Congressman" after he was caught on tape smooching a staffer, finished far back in the field in his contest.
-- Michael McAuliff
11/05/2014 5:24 AM EST
Expect A Delay In Results
AP not calling these races until the number of outstanding votes can be verified: Va. gov.; Conn. gov.; Colo. gov.; Alaska gov, Senate.— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) November 5, 2014
11/05/2014 5:07 AM EST
Alaska Becomes 4th State To Legalize Recreational Marijuana
In yet another major pushback against the war on drugs, Alaska legalized recreational marijuana on Tuesday, joining Oregon and Washington, D.C. -- both of which legalized cannabis only hours before. Alaska becomes the fourth state in the U.S. to legalize retail marijuana, along with Oregon, Colorado and Washington state.
Voters approved Measure 2, which legalizes the possession, use and sale of recreational marijuana. Adults, age 21 and older, may possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants (with no more than three being mature) for personal use. The measure also legalizes the manufacture, sale and possession of marijuana paraphernalia, such as devices used for smoking or storing the plant.
“The folks trying to keep marijuana illegal are relying on the same scare tactics today that they have relied on for decades, but voters just aren’t falling for it anymore," Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement early Wednesday morning. "The results are particularly encouraging since voter turnout during a midterm election is typically smaller, older, and more conservative. Clearly, support for ending marijuana prohibition spans the political and ideological spectrums."
Read more here.
-- Matt Ferner
11/05/2014 4:28 AM EST
Ah, Politics... Chicago-Style
11/05/2014 3:40 AM EST
Sarah Palin To GOP: You Didn't Build This
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin took to Facebook last night to issue a hearty congratulations -- and warning -- to her GOP brethren:
Thank you, wise voters! Tonight is a big victory for We the People! Credit is due to the victorious candidates. Your message to President Obama is undeniably received, though he'll try to ignore it.
The Democrats got mauled today, deservedly so. To prohibit that from happening to the GOP in 2016, it must learn the lesson from the last time Republicans held the Senate majority. This time they must not retreat, and it's our responsibility to hold them accountable. Will they fight for reform that aligns with the limited government planks of the Republican platform, or will they return to the big government cronyism and status quo favored by the permanent political class? Will they drain the swamp or decide the D.C. cesspool is really just a jacuzzi they can't wait to jump on into and shake us off?
If GOP leadership returns to business as usual, then this majority will be short lived, for We the People say, “once bitten, twice shy.”
Click here to read the full statement.
11/05/2014 2:55 AM EST
Alaska Approves Minimum Wage Increase
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ Alaskans have voted to raise the minimum wage.— Becky Bohrer (@beckybohrerap) November 5, 2014
11/05/2014 2:39 AM EST
Alaska Rep. Don Young Projected To Win 22nd Term
The Associated Press is projecting that Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) will win re-election as Alaska's only member of Congress.