In U.S. politics, we only keep score every two years, when we have real elections that decide things. In between, all we have is pre-game chatter and scouting reports.  Tuesday’s elections represent something closer to a pre-season game, or at least a full-speed scrimmage. 

What lessons should the Republicans learn?

It’s better to dissect the results, looking for problems, than it is to scrutinize and extrapolate success. Never underestimate your opposition. Always look for bad news; good news has a way of taking care of itself. 

Republicans should be most disappointed about the Senate Bill 5 voter referendum (the Ohio collective bargaining limit repeal) in Ohio. The Republican point of view lost in a landslide. Republicans must not underestimate this. Everything about Ohio is critical for the 2012 election. Any lessons that we can learn about voter sentiments, voter turn-out, or the Democrats’ strengths should be carefully analyzed. 

The Virginia results were good, not great, but President Obama should be much more worried about Virginia than he was three years ago. 

The failure of the Initiative 26 ballot measure in Mississippi, or the “personhood” referendum, was not a victory for Democrats, or pro-choice forces. It was a victory for Republicans. If that amendment had passed, the left wing would have howled about Republican extremism and would have tried to reinforce the negative stereotypes that they want Republicans to live up to. 

All in all, a net plus for Republicans, but plenty of warnings for the elections next year.