The winners - and the losers
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.): The conservative kingmaker saw a number of his endorsed candidates sail to victory, including Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky and Marco Rubio (R) of Florida in their Senate races. By getting behind those candidates early on, DeMint helped himself get ahead, in terms of both his clout with the tea party and his potential White House ambitions.
West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III (D): Proof that well-known candidates matter, Manchin defeated businessman John Raese (R) to win the seat of the late senator Robert C. Byrd (D). In a state where President Obama remains deeply unpopular, Manchin defied a tough environment to keep a key Senate seat safely in the Democratic column.
Florida Republicans: The GOP was on track to win three or more competitive House seats in the big battleground state.
Virginia Republicans: Democrats lost three seats, including those of two freshmen and that of longtime Rep. Rick Boucher - one of the most surprising early results Tuesday night. The results suggest that Obama's win in the state in 2008 may have been more of a blip than a genuine political shift.
House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio): It's hard to call Boehner anything but a winner, given that he is all but guaranteed to become the next House speaker. His political rise was stunted momentarily, but now he is likely to become the most important Republican in Washington - with the Senate apparently out of reach for the GOP.
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.): Not only did the retiring senator's seat go Republican, but two of Indiana's three competitive House races did as well. That Bayh still has millions of dollars remaining in his campaign account while members of his party suffered big losses is a negative for the Democrat.
Freshmen: Across the board, House freshmen were dealt resounding defeats. Two of the three Virginia Democrats whose political fortunes rose with Obama in 2008 had their reelection hopes dashed; the third was in a neck-and-neck race. Expect plenty of post-race analysis on what these losses mean for the Obama coalition's future.
Young voters: Youth turnout was, in a word, dismal. According to early exit polls, 10 percent of voters were ages 18 to 29. In 2008, young voters made up 18 percent of the electorate. The number even pales in comparison with the 2006 midterms, when young people made up 12 percent of the electorate. Democrats were winning 58 percent of that demographic on Tuesday, but they just didn't show up in the numbers needed to avoid heavy losses for the party.
Democrats in McCain districts: Democrats did not appear on track to win any competitive Arizona districts that GOP Sen. John McCain won in the 2008 presidential election - a development that severely blunts the impact of the gains they made two years ago.
Coverage of races that matter: The reports that unsuccessful GOP Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell of Delaware received more media coverage than any other 2010 candidate ought to give pause to reporters, editors and news consumers alike. Will future campaigns be covered in the same vein? If so, what does that say about the direction of political reporting?
- Chris Cillizza