Election 2010: Results and analysis with The Post's Robert G. Kaiser

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Robert G. Kaiser
Associate Editor, The Washington Post
Tuesday, November 2, 2010; 9:00 PM

Washington Post associate editor Robert G. Kaiser was online Tuesday, Nov. 2, at 9 p.m. ET to discuss and analyze the midterm election returns.

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Robert G. Kaiser: Good evening and welcome to our election-night discussion. Here's what happens: you ask questions and make comments, and I react to them, answer them, or, in cases of extreme rudeness, ignore them. I've been doing this for many years, and enjoy it every time. My hope is to help everyone think about what is happening in our country, never an easy assignment. I'm happy to post comments that aren't really questions, so please give us your analyses as well as your queries. My plan is to stick with this until about 11:30 EDT, the fates willing. Occasionally I'll take a brief break to ask the Fix or Dan Balz to explain things to me, but I'll try to keep the discussion going.

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Hyattsville, Md.: Hello Mr Kaiser - Without a strong challenger to Obama in 2012, it would seem that the "party-of-no" strategy will backfire for the Republicans as long as there's the slightest prodding from the president to come up with realistic options on legislation. Do you see them re-evaluating their positions on tax policy, for instance, or can stonewalling get them back to a majority across the board in two years?

Robert G. Kaiser: I'm sure we'll have lots of comments and questions about what Republicans do with their new strength--a good question regardless of just how great that strength turns out to be.

I caution against rushing to a judgment like "without as strong challenger..." I've been around too long to forget how often "strong candidates" materialize relatively late in the game. Barrack Obama is a case in point. So let's not conclude today that the GOP cannot come up with what turns out to be a strong candidate.

That said, the Republicans face a serious quandary. Their success today was based pretty much entirely on who they weren't, not who they were or what they proposed to do. I think you're right that to prevail in a presidential election, they'll have to offer a plausible governing program.

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Edison, N.J.: I am anticipating a Republican win in both the House and the Senate.

How will this affect U.S.-Israel relations?

Robert G. Kaiser: Well, this is an unexpected question! My first thought is, no effect whatsoever, since the executive branch makes and conducts foreign policy.

Also, you're getting ahead of the facts. A Republican senate still looks like a long shot at this hour. A Republican House is a lot more likely.

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Washington, D.C.: Bob, your recent book, SO DAMN MUCH MONEY, may need a new title after this election -- how about SO MUCH MORE DAMN MONEY! Seriously, you warned us how money has changed American politics in the modern era, but you didn't imagine Citizens United or the flood of dollars this time, did you?

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for the plug! That book came out nearly two years ago, and recorded the fact that the cost of congressional campaigns has risen steadily every two years since the late 1970s. I found numerous past and present members of Congress (House and Senate) who worried that the need to raise hundreds of thousands or, more commonly now especially in Senate races, millions of dollars to run for office blocks many fine citizens from even thinking about running. Members spend a significant portion of their work week -- sometimes two days or more -- on the telephone pleading with rich Americans to give them money. This seems to me to be profoundly demeaning for our elected representatives, but this is what they do.

And now, as the question suggests, there's a vast new source of money in our politics, and it is provided by people whose names we will never know. Exploiting both the Supreme court decision you mention and the astoundingly weak Federal Elections Commission, surely our most pathetic government institution, special interests, rich individuals, corporations and unions can now funnel millions in mystery money into our campaigns. Just what we needed, right?

The experts say $4 BILLION will be spent on the 2010 campaigns. Think about that.

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Greenbelt, Md.: Do Republicans really have to get to 51 to gain control of the Senate? Practically speaking, if they get to 49, won't there be a STRONG effort to convince Lieberman and Nelson to switch sides? Both are, essentially, Republicans anyway and I would think a deal could be struck with them within a week or so.

What do you think?

Robert G. Kaiser: Good question. Lieberman is not remotely a Republican; he votes with the Democrats on nearly all issues. Nelson is more ambiguous. There might be one or two other candidates for wooing by the GOP as well. No way to know tonight what might happen.

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Wellington, New Zealand: With 21.5 percent of the vote counted, Sestak is crushing Toomey 59-41. How is that possible? Every poll showed Sestak close but behind. Is it just that the liberal districts have reported first? (Philly, et al)

Robert G. Kaiser: Philadelphia usually reports first. Stay tuned.

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Washington, D.C.: So, CNN is already calling the House for the Republicans. Doesn't this possibly have the effect of depressing turnout in all of the states out west where the polls are still open for a few years?

Robert G. Kaiser: It surprised me, I confess. But they'll argue that this is different than calling a presidential election. Is it really? Can we imagine people in California, say, driving home from work, hearing about this prediction, and deciding it isn't worth voting in their local elections? I kind of doubt it, but I certainly don't know.

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Carrboro, N.C.: Mr. Kaiser --

It looks like the Dems are going down big tonight. As a proud progressive, I'm stumped that my party did not in any way put out a full-throated defense of its accomplishments in the last few years (stimulus that saved unemployment from being worse, health care-reform, consumer financial protection agency, expanded children's health care, etc.).

Will any Democrats draw the lesson that "gee, maybe we should have run on our accomplishments since running from what we did got our butts kicked?"

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for the comment. It has occurred to me this fall that if a Martian landed and watched this campaign for a few days, she would be totally baffled about what the Democrats, or most of them, believe in, care about, etc. I agree with you that there has been no coherent progressive message this year.

But keep in mind how common this has been, really since the early 1980s. I've long thought, and written more than once, that Democrats never fully recovered from the shellacking that Ronald Reagan gave them in 1980 and again in 1984. Obama of course helped them find a voice in 2008, but then he too seemed to lose the ability to talk meaningfully to Americans hurting in this awful recession. Strange.

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Washington, D.C.: What do you think the NBC decision to call the House for Republicans was based on, since the polls were still open in most states when they made the call? Exit polls? Common sense?

Robert G. Kaiser: NBC, CNN and perhaps others -- I can't watch 'em all! -- have made this call, and yes, it's a combination of real results, exit polls and common sense that has led them to do so. The seats in Virginia and New Hampshire that have gone Republican make it pretty clear that the marginal seats Dems prayed they could hold on to will not be held.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: I think in the long view tonight is like lancing a boil. No one likes to do it, it's ugly, but it relieves pressure for Obama.

His immediate political choice is to (1) sit back a bit and let the new folks expose themselves for a few months; guaranteed to be in-fighting, embarrassing episodes, etc., and the spotlight will be on them. Or (2) step on the Republic victory with a series of new appointments designed to re-engage business leaders and do a better job on the messaging and communications front. I'd personally like to see Obama bring in some high-profile talent to get control of the message -- Michael Bloomberg on the political side and a strong progressive (Rachel Maddow?) on the communications side...but I can see the advantages to sitting back a bit and seeing what happens.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for posting.

Posted 9:29 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Scared: As a former 5-year House Democratic staffer, the results of this election scare me. I left for law school, came back to D.C. (for a promised House job to be thrown under the proverbial bus two weeks after I moved back/before I started in August 2007) and am now with an Executive Agency. We started talking government shutdown last week.

Given the public misinformation (I make 1/3rd of my private sector graduates ($200K+ to GS- 12-$75K)) a shutdown results in me losing my apartment in Silver Spring. What/where do I go? I'm already looking for jobs barbacking in Silver Spring, but since I'm too poor for a car...I don't know what's next.

Robert G. Kaiser: Whoa, hold on! You are of course entitled to your fears--as are the millions of Americans who have thrown a lot of incumbents out of office tonight--but I'd suggest a few deep breaths, and some patience. This is going to be a really complicated situation. Thinking you know what's going to happen seems a little rash to me tonight.

Posted 9:31 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Irresponsible: For both CNN and NBC to project a significant majority in the House for the Republicans before voting has ended on the West Coast is disgraceful. There is no gain to the viewers in getting this "information" so early that isn't outweighed by the likely damage in turnout in a number of significant elections, including Senate and governors races are outside the purview of this House projection. They were wrong in doing this and should be heavily criticized for doing so.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for posting. You'll see my comment on this above. I have no idea if you or I is more likely to be right.

Posted 9:32 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Seattle, Wash.: As a resident of the democratic wing of the Democratic party, I've been pretty disappointed in Obama's performance in office.

Any thoughts regarding a primary challenge to him in 2012?

Robert G. Kaiser: Democrats have a remarkable capacity for fratricide. I've long been intrigued by the thought that had Teddy Kennedy not challenged Jimmy Carter in 1980, Carter almost certainly would have won reelection that year. And how would history have been different if there had never been a Reagan revolution?

In tonight's exit polls, Obama has an approval rating of about 45 percent. And in the last Washington Post-ABC poll, his approval among all registered voters was actually 50 percent. This isn't great, obviously, but it's a lot higher than the approval ratings enjoyed by Ronald Reagan on election night 1982, or Bill Clinton on election night 1994--comparable points in their presidencies.

My own opinion, worth exactly what you will pay for it, is that like Carter, Obama (and the Democrats) could be deeply wounded by a primary challenge.

Posted 9:37 p.m., 11.2.2010

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I've long thought, and written more than once, that Democrats never fully recovered from the shellacking that Ronald Reagan gave them in 1980 and again in 1984.: I might argue that the Democrats haven't fully recovered from 1968.

Robert G. Kaiser: Of course you're right--or from the Vietnam War, for that matter. Vietnam was the ugly end of the post-war era, one of the most creative and constructive two decades in our history.

Posted 9:38 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Indianapolis, Ind.: Some Congresswoman just told C. Matthews the GOP will do across the board spending cuts on discretionary spending then "talk about Social Security and Medicare" How many times have we heard this before? The budget problems exist because of entitlement spending, NOT discretionary spending. This sounds like more of the same already.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for posting. There's been no sign yet of a real Republican interest in large cuts in entitlements. There will be an early showdown when the appointed budget-balancing commission makes its suggestions later this year.

Posted 9:40 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Marco Rubio: Perceptions are an interesting thing. Rubio will come out of this election night as one of the rising stars on the national scene. And he's getting 50-51 percent of the vote. If Kendrick Meek had agreed to drop out of the race, that race might be too close to call.

Robert G. Kaiser: Yup. The exit poll suggests that Rubio could easily finish with less than 50%.

On the other hand, there's no guarantee that all the Meek voters would have turned out to vote for Crist. Meek, an African American, had strong support from black voters that Crist would have been unlikely to enjoy had Meek dropped out.

Posted 9:41 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Marco Rubio, 2012?: Don't know if you were able to see Rubio's acceptance speech, but it sounded more like a campaign speech for 2012. (Its central theme: America is just the best! Thanks, Marco, that solved a lot of problems just like that!) Am I pushing the envelope there?

Robert G. Kaiser: I don't know anything about Rubio's ambitions, but I do know that making a speech like that doesn't guarantee anything.

Posted 9:49 p.m., 11.2.2010

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New York: These chats are always a highlight of election night.

First, I don't see the big deal in calling the House for the Republicans. We all knew it would happen. And the big races out west are in the Senate, control of which is yet to be determined.

Second, what are the chances of Don't Ask Don't Tell being repealed before the end of the year?

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for the nice words. Don't Ask, Don't Tell is now in the hands of the courts, I think. It isn't going to survive, but when it will die is still unclear to me.

Posted 9:50 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Laurel, Md.: Assuming the projections hold up, how will this affect future Republican strategy? On another Post board, a columnist opined that the Repubs did well this year by not being sidetracked by issues like gays, abortion and religion in schools that make them look silly for even bringing up.

Robert G. Kaiser: The Republicans did well this year by being the out party--just the way the Democrats did well in 2006.

Let me offer a theory here about one of the many gulfs that separate the pundit class from real Americans. Pundits--you're seeing it again tonight--seem unable to resist drawing big political conclusions from dramatic election results such as we are seeing tonight. And they are always, invariably, wrong. Pundits see everything through an analytical, political lens. A great many Americans react to politics the way they react to sports--emotionally. There's a lot of emotion out there right now, because our economy is so scary, and so many people are really hurting. Emotion produces many of our most dramatic election results. And emotions can change with amazing speed.

Here's a link to a brilliant story about the mood of the American electorate by my colleague Dan Balz. It's the best single story I read this fall.

Posted 9:51 p.m., 11.2.2010

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washingtonpost.com: Across the country, anger, frustration and fear among voters as election nears (Post, Oct. 28)

Posted 9:51 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Palo Alto, Calif.: Do you think that the Republicans will take over the Senate?

Robert G. Kaiser: I don't expect it at this hour, but my expectations are irrelevant. Let's keep watching. It is altogether possible, however, that we won't know the answer tonight, because vote counting in Alaska is going to take some time, because of Lisa Murkowski's write-in campaign.

Posted 9:51 p.m., 11.2.2010

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We'll miss you, Christine: Christine O'Donnell "conceded" a few minutes ago and I think it's interesting to note something. In 2008, running against Joe Biden in a race where she got little help or media attention, she got 35 percent of the vote. In 2010, with Lady Gaga- like media coverage, millions of dollars in support and a relatively unknown opponent, she got 40 percent. That's not exactly a significant improvement. I think it's time for her to go back to TV.

Robert G. Kaiser: The great irony is that she cost the Republicans a seat by beating Mike Castle in the primary. A very popular former governor and a true moderate, Castle would have cruised to victory this year I believe.

Posted 9:52 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Waldorf, Md.: I have read numerous polls/studies recently that all point to large amounts of dissatisfaction with both parties...I, myself, always feel like I am voting for the lesser of two evils with the candidates that run, and rarely, if ever, can I find someone who actually reflects my viewpoint on most issues. Do you think there could be a viable third party in the near future given how so few of our candidates seem to speak from the center, or do you think that most people have moved farther from the center along with the candidates?

Robert G. Kaiser: This is a good question. The thesis of my recent book, plugged once already but what the hell, SO DAMN MUCH MONEY, is that our political culture is spoiled--by money, lobbying and partisan warfare. You (and I, I should admit) are turned off by the consequences, a fiercely competitive partisan battle that the battlers consider more important than addressing the country's and the world's grave problems. I do think the polling evidence supports the idea that we have a big moderate segment in both parties, and among independents, who now outnumber both Dems and Repubs.

But the incumbents have stacked the system in their favor. The parties have a tight grip on the processes of politics. A third party would require an extraordinary effort by a lot of people. Do they exist?

Posted 9:57 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Indianapolis, Ind. - Follow up: In fairness to the GOP and that congresswoman: NO one elected wants to talk about entitlement spending but that's where the problem is and the deficit won't get any better until we (as a country) deal with it. It's a shame how both parties are united in their commitment to NOT deal with this problem and pretty much any "real" problem: energy independence, America losing its competitive edge in primary education. They simply won't deal with the problems that really matter. I guarantee you nine months from now the electorate will be ready to "throw these bums out" too. Thanks for letting me vent. It's just so frustrating.

Robert G. Kaiser: well thanks for venting here.

Posted 9:58 p.m., 11.2.2010

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New era in elections: It seems like many voters are irrational as they are doing more than just voting with their pocketbooks. I'm not satisfied by current situation so throw the bums out. It sort of builds upon Dems winning in 2008 as that was message then but just that bums had been in control for longer. So patience and time for things to develop are no longer possible. It follows the critics of the stimulus who say billions were spent for nothing without thinking about what might have happened if stimulus wasn't passed.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for this, which echoes comments of mine a couple of questions ago.

Let me take this opportunity to say something about the stimulus and also the bailouts of banks. I'm a senior citizen, I've been following politics since John F. Kennedy was president, and I can't remember two macro-economic policy initiatives by the federal government that made a bigger contribution than the TARP legislation (a Republican idea) and the stimulus (Democratic idea). We really were on the edge of an economic catastrophe that would have rocked this country and the entire globe, and we avoided it.

And then what happened? Tarp and stimulus became dirty words. The politicians who voted for TARP (John Boehner was one) have abandoned it with a vengeance. Republican candidates clobbered Democrats over the stimulus all year.

Next time you're talking to your banker or stock broker, ask them what things would have been like without those two programs.

Posted 10:03 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Silver Spring, Md.: Bob: I think the Tea Party winners should take the lead in cutting federal spending for their own districts, to set an example for the rest of Congress. What do you think of my proposal? Paul '64

Robert G. Kaiser: Pretty hard to do geographic targeting of government spending cuts. But I take your point. Will be fun to watch.

Posted 10:04 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Re: Indianapolis: The congresswoman in question was Marsha Blackburn, of Tennessee, who always does a fine job of appearing on television and giving smooth, polished answers that make very little sense. Just to clarify if "the GOP will do across the board spending cuts on discretionary spending then 'talk about Social Security and Medicare'" AND not include defense spending, they're talking about maybe 8 percent of the federal budget. So "cuts" on 8 percent of the budget doesn't even represent pennies on the dollar of the deficit. It's lip service for a serious issue.

Robert G. Kaiser: thanks again

Posted 10:05 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Washington, D.C.: Can we just be over with this, already? The media has been predicting and discussing the Democrats' doom in Congress since about, oh, Jan. 21, 2009. I mean, really, assuming there's about one-week's attention span on this election, isn't it time to start devoting all attention to who is going to run for the Republican nomination.

(Hint: I'm suggesting that the media cares nothing about substance, and only about horse races.)

Robert G. Kaiser: I think you're on to something!

Posted 10:06 p.m., 11.2.2010

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The great irony is that she cost the Republicans a seat by beating Mike Castle in the primary.: The Tea Party costs the GOP two seats in Delaware. The House seat formerly held by Castle went to a Democrat.

Robert G. Kaiser: Castle had announced that he was "up or out" -- he'd either run for senate or retire, but not run for reelection to the House. So I'm not sure you're right.

Posted 10:07 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Re: third party: Waldorf stole my question! As to what it would take, I think the first step is already there. One party, the Republicans, has basically shed itself of everyone outside of a rather narrow point of view. That will inevitably push moderates toward a decision point: try to work with the liberals in the Democratic Party or...? And given that moderates include people like Michael Bloomberg, it's possible they could raise a significant amount of money (including online funds) in a short period of time. I actually think it's a possibility, especially if we see more stalemate in the next two years (which I think we will).

Robert G. Kaiser: thanks

Posted 10:07 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Arlington, Va.: This looks to be shaping up like a historic landslide for the Republicans. Since this is mostly a referendum on the Obama administration and the vote indicates that the vast majority of Americans have no confidence in the president, is there any talk that he will resign?

Robert G. Kaiser: No. And I see no evidence that this was "mostly a referendum on the Obama administration." As I've said above, I see this as a referendum on the state of the nation--which, in case you haven't noticed, is really lousy.

Posted 10:09 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Bums to the left and right: I think a lot of people are tired of both parties. The mortgage bubble and illegal immigration are two issues in which voters see the leadership of each party serving a core constituency at the expense of the average American.

How do voters re-define the spectrum so it isn't just a line that we're not standing on.

Robert G. Kaiser: thanks for the comment

Posted 10:23 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Leesburg, Va.: As much as this election and the last have been about change (and how much real change we get this time around is probably even less than in 2008), I feel that the change that we really need is to get people in power who will actually do things that are best for the country at large, not all the corporations and special interests. Take the stimulus and TARP, who did those benefit? It certainly wasn't the people who bought homes that they could afford who are now stuck with mortgages significantly larger than they could sell their house for today. It also isn't the people whose retirement savings got wiped out after they dutifully saved all their lives. It was the stock brokers and the bankers you reference above who ruined everything in the first place, who then had the gall to try to put up a big stink about reform legislation intended to keep them honest in the future. We have the big health-care plan that most people have major issues with, that probably played a significant role in the Dem losses today, but it keeps the health insurance companies and hospitals rolling in the dough instead of reducing the actual cost of health care which would help the average middle class American. I just don't see change, I see a government owned by a group of companies and special interests and no matter who is in power, the average middle class American still loses. I write to my representative and my senators on these issues, but unfortunately I can't afford some expensive lobbyist to help me.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for the thoughtful post. It gives me the opportunity to use my favorite statistics from The Washington Post in recent weeks.

These appeared in an op-ed column by Harold Myerson, an unabashed liberal, as this except makes clear. But his statistics are real numbers, and to me they tell us a great deal about what's been happening in the United States.

"From 1950 through 1980, the share of all income in America going to the bottom 90 percent of Americans -- effectively, all but the rich -- increased from 64 percent to 65 percent... Because the nation's economy was growing handsomely, that means that the average income of Americans in the bottom 90 percent was growing, too -- from $17,719 in 1950 to $30,941 in 1980 -- a 75 percent increase in income in constant 2008 dollars.

Since 1980, it's been a very different story. The economy has continued to grow handsomely, but for the bottom 90 percent of Americans, it's been a time of stagnation and loss. Since 1980, the share of all income in America going to the bottom 90 percent has declined from 65 percent to 52 percent. In actual dollars, the average income of Americans in the bottom 90 percent flat-lined -- going from the $30,941 of 1980 to $31,244 in 2008.

In short, the economic life and prospects for Americans since the Reagan Revolution have grown dim, while the lives of the rich -- the super-rich in particular -- have never been brighter. The share of income accruing to America's wealthiest 1 percent rose from 9 percent in 1974 to a tidy 23.5 percent in 2007."

I think this explains better than any other fact I know the anger and anxiety that our countrymen are feeling. Americans have always expected that they will do better than their parents, and their kids will do better still. But for 30 years, except at the very top of the pyramid, this has not been happening.

Posted 10:41 p.m., 11.2.2010

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New York: The vote counts in Pennsylvania and Illinois are painfully close. The exit polls in Colorado and Nevada show a dead heat. Based on current information, are there any hints you can give us about these Senate races?

Robert G. Kaiser: No hints available. These may all be very late-night results.

Posted 10:41 p.m., 11.2.2010

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The saddest race of the night : IMHO, it's the Nevada Senate race. Neither candidate deserves to win. Harry Reid failed in his role as majority leader, by not supporting the party or his president in effectively passing legislation and not effectively explaining their actions to the voters. In the process, he lost contact with the folks back home.

Sharron Angle, quite simply, is a disgrace. "A Second Amendment solution" for changing our government. "The media needs to be taught a lesson." The most racist commercial of the campaign. She is not worthy of a seat in the Senate.

But one of them will win. That's kind of sad.

Robert G. Kaiser: I wish it were the only one...

Posted 10:42 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Washington, D.C.: OK, let's move to the next election: Who do the Republicans nominate to maximize the chances of taking down Obama in 2012?

Robert G. Kaiser: You tell me. I don't see a strong candidate today, but as I said above, today is early.

Posted 10:43 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Washington, D.C.: It's being reported that people in Maryland were receiving robocalls tonight telling them not to vote. Apparently, the recording said that Obama and O'Malley had been successful and that there was no reason for them to vote. Disgusting.

Robert G. Kaiser: "It's being reported" where?

Posted 10:43 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Bowie, Md.: Just watched Eric Cantor (VA) on MSNBC who said that a priority is the extension of the Bush tax cuts, including those for the wealthiest Americans at a cost of $700 billion. When asked how they'd be paid for, he came up with $100 billion in savings. Will the Post commit to pressing Republicans on how they plan to pay for these tax cuts?

Robert G. Kaiser: I can't commit The Post, and never could, but I think you can expect our Congressional team to be pressing this question persistently starting this week.

Posted 10:44 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Coolidge, Ariz.: Hi Robert,

Since a lot of people on this Q&A are concerned about entitlements, has anyone ever thought to change the current law that limits or caps Social Security deductions on income over $106,000? Seems like it would cover the current deficits if it were raised.....what are your thoughts?

Robert G. Kaiser: Remove all caps completely? That would indeed raise a lot of money. And radically alter the tax code.

Posted 10:44 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Falls Church nitpicker: oh Arlington, you have me laughing. Did Bush think about resigning in 2006 when Dems took both houses in landslide victories?

Robert G. Kaiser: thanks.

Posted 10:44 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Pittsburgh, Pa.: Can Joe Sestak hang on to enough his Democratic lead in SW and SE Pennsylvania in order to outweigh the predominantly Republican votes in Pennsylvania's "T" (center, NW and NE)?

Robert G. Kaiser: That's the big question for the rest of the night.

Posted 10:45 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Minneapolis, Minn.: I've been looking through the exit polls, and find it interesting that in most of the "swing states" -- PA, OH, FL, WI, CO -- voters still have a more favorable opinion of the Democratic Party than the Republican Party. I think the GOP is reading too much into the results if they see this as a major endorsement of their ideas.

Robert G. Kaiser: To the extent that the Republicans are doing what you accuse them of, I heartily agree. But this is the American way. The winners ALWAYS overintepret their victory, in my opinion.

Posted 10:45 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Watching Brian Williams fall down on the job. He has Michele Bachmann on. She says that the deficit is the biggest concern and the first priority is to extend the Bush tax cuts for everyone. Williams doesn't follow up with the obvious question: "how does adding $280B in tax cuts help the deficit?" We could cut the deficit in half just by letting the Bush tax cuts expire altogether. No politician should be allowed to present diametrically opposed viewpoints without being asked about them, in my humble view.

Robert G. Kaiser: Absolutely agree. I didn't see Williams.

Posted 10:46 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Roller coaster election!: I gasped when Lollar was ahead of Hoyer at first in Maryland - it was very surprising. O'Donnell lost but Paul won; Sestak NS Toomey in PA are at 50/50 with 86 percent of precincts in. I'm very curious about how Nevada will turn out - I guess a lot of people are waiting for that one too. It's really been quite an exciting election, especially for a midterm!

Robert G. Kaiser: Not sure about the roller coaster metaphor. Do Democrats feel they are on a rollercoaster? Or on a submarine taking a dive?

Posted 10:51 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Re: the Bush tax cuts: Clearly, since I'm not a Republican or economist or a pundit, I don't understand this, so maybe you can help me:

Why is it such a necessity to keep the Bush tax cuts in place in order to rebuild the economy when they were already in place when the economy tanked in the first place?

Robert G. Kaiser: Well, the theory is that raising anyone's taxes when the economy needs more consumption is a mistake. If this good economics? Lot's of argument here. Many argue that rich people don't spent all their income anyhow, so taking a little more in taxes won't affect consumption significantly.

Posted 11:01 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Anti-government campaigns: Congress is one of the few institutions where trashing your hopeful employer can help you get hired. What will become of the anti-government politicians once they become part of the government?

Robert G. Kaiser: we've been facing that question since 1976, when Jimmy Carter ran a largely anti-government campaign. We've been running down the government for so long that, in my view, it has significantly damaged the government, not least by discouraging promising young people from working for their government.

There is no single answer to your question, of course.

Posted 11:03 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Los Angeles, Calif.: Thanks for hosting these great chats! President Carter, in a recent interview, suggested that GOP control of the House and/or Senate might be liberating for Obama by forcing the GOP's hand, and I tend to agree. What drives me crazy are the so-called independents. I think the "I" stands for instant gratification. These folks don't give anything more than two years. The mess we're in can't be fixed overnight and it would behoove all of us to bear that in mind when entering the voting booth.

Robert G. Kaiser: thanks for posting

Posted 11:04 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Bridgewater, Mass.: Any projections on the marijuana question?

Robert G. Kaiser: exit poll suggests that it will lose--Prop 19 in California, that is.

Posted 11:04 p.m., 11.2.2010

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The irrational Tea Partiers: They've come out in big numbers today to throw out those Washington insiders and replace them with...people like Dan Coates in Indiana, who's spent decades...in Washington.

Or people like Rand Paul, who proudly ran on a platform of independence from those establishment politicians and big money donors in Washington...until he needed money to run in the general election and hooked up with Mitch McConnell and the big GOP fundraisers in Washington.

How long will this honeymoon last?

Robert G. Kaiser: thanks for posting.

Posted 11:04 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Great Falls, Va.: I just saw this quote...

""I think he's truthful when he says he would rather be a hard-charging one-termer than sort of a do-nothing, stand- around two-termer"

Will that cost the Democrats the election two years from now?

Robert G. Kaiser: Is this Obama? Or said to be Obama? Doesn't sound like him at all. And I think the answer to your question is no.

Posted 11:05 p.m., 11.2.2010

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The early tests: I believe both parties will look for an early test to try to outmaneuver the other side. More than likely, it will have something to do with cutting the budget. The Republicans will likely try to find a way to paint the Dems as still willing to spend money irrationally, ignoring the "mandate" from the voters. Obama will likely try to split the established Republicans from the Tea Partiers who've just joined them on the Hill. I suspect either or both of these actions will produce deadlock. Am I wrong?

Robert G. Kaiser: Very possible. Thanks.

Posted 11:24 p.m., 11.2.2010

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The winners ALWAYS overintepret their victory, in my opinion. : Don't forget the Democrats talking about their permanent majorities in 2008, just a few years after the Republicans spoke of their permanent majorities following the 2002 midterms. Wonder who will be the first to speak of a permanent Republican majority in the House after tonight...

Robert G. Kaiser: that's what I was talking about. Thanks.

Posted 11:25 p.m., 11.2.2010

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Robert G. Kaiser: It's been a long night, and we'll now say goodnight. It looks as we leave as though Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer are going to win in California, but some other races aren't going to be resolved for sure before tomorrow. It's been a big night for Republicans, and a lousy night for Democrats, whose lives are going to be miserable for a while, and perhaps quite a while. Thanks to all for taking part in our discussion.

Posted 11:26 p.m., 11.2.2010

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