The victory was wider, deeper and easier than the pollsters and pundits imagined. The GOP is on track to hold 53 Senate seats, with a runoff in Louisiana in December. Winning Republicans’ margins of victory were wider than final polls anticipated, with Ed Gillespie beating the spread handily with a close race in Virginia. Not a single GOP incumbent lost or even came close to losing. Rep. Tom Cotton won his Arkansas race by more than 15 points while David Perdue also won in Georgia by double digits.
The less-than-scintillating incumbents in Kansas and Mississippi got their acts together in time, with considerable help from the Republican National Committee and high-profile Republican surrogates. The public was in no mood to punish Republicans for perceived inadequacies.
The newcomers ran on repealing and replacing Obamacare, developing domestic energy, toughening our foreign policy and simple competence in governance, a scarce commodity under President Obama and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
The only jump ball the GOP lost was in New Hampshire, although Scott Brown kept it close.
These are a responsible and experienced lot. Only Joni Ernst seemed to catch the attention of tea partyers, but she was also mentored by Gov. Terry Branstad (R) and backed by the Chamber of Commerce and the Farm Bureau. The mandate, if there is one, is to fix, not destroy, government.
Even more surprising was the strong showing for GOP governors, who had been expected to lose a few net seats. Instead they racked up wins in blue and purple states, including Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Florida, Maryland and potentially Massachusetts. The GOP brand does not “suck,” as the ambitious junior Kentucky senator would have us believe. As head of the Republican Governors Association, Chris Christie of New Jersey had a big night, boosting his presidential prospects along with winning Govs. John Kasich (Ohio) and Scott Walker (Wis.). To top it off, the GOP picked up House seats in New York, New Hampshire, Illinois, Iowa and West Virginia. They seem poised to hit the 245 mark, the highest total for the GOP in nearly 70 years. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) will have plenty of cushion to move legislation and avoid logjams.
The big losers were Reid’s strategy of do-nothingism; the ludicrous “war on women”; Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who was sparsely used on the trail and will be swamped by constructive and sober colleagues; isolationists, who will see a flock of hawks swoop into the Senate; and the Clintons, who could not save a single embattled senator for whom they campaigned. On a state and federal level, the GOP has the chance to prove it can govern and solve problems. It should avoid chest-beating and get down to work so as to lay the foundation for a new Republican Party, one more diverse and constructive, and to set the stage for 2016. Sure, it was a wave, but pols and pundits should remember there are no permanent defeats and permanent victories in politics. If you do not deliver, the voters will boot you out.