Election Recap: Early EditionNovember 03, 2010
For those who have kept on top of polling numbers and political trends, the results of yesterday’s congressional elections showed only a few real surprises. As expected, Republicans captured the House of Representatives, picking up 60 seats as of this writing (11 races are still too close to call). The Senate remains under Democratic control, but barely. Republicans won just six of the 10 seats they would have needed to gain a majority, and three races are still undecided. Republicans also picked up eight gubernatorial seats and will likely capture several more of the nine currently undecided races; governor’s races were especially important this year because of the impact they will have on redistricting after the 2010 census.
More newsworthy than the expected GOP gains in the House were the races in which powerful and long-serving Democrats either lost or won in surprisingly competitive races: Budget Committee Chair Rep. John Spratt (D-SC), Armed Services Committee Chair Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO), and Transportation Committee Chair Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN) all lost their seats; 36-term Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) barely won a tough race, and Financial Services Committee Chair Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) won with a reasonable margin after appearing vulnerable for much of his campaign.
Barring a Republican leadership power struggle, these changes pave the way for Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) to become speaker of the house and preside over a large Republican majority — one with more than ever ultra-conservative elements. If the last 11 races fall where expected, Republicans will have 244 House seats to Democrats’ 191 in the next Congress.
In the Senate, GOP victories in Arkansas, North Dakota, and Indiana were unsurprising. The races in Pennsylvania and Illinois (President Obama’s former Senate seat) were far closer, but by the end of the night both were called for the Republicans. In Wisconsin, Sen. Russ Feingold’s loss constituted a real blow for the Democrats.
However, the Democratic Party handily won several races that were expected to be close — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid beat tea party favorite Sharron Angle by more than five points in Nevada, Gov. Joe Manchin beat John Raese in West Virginia by almost 10 points, and Democrats kept their seats in California and Connecticut.
Two of the three undecided Senate races will probably be called for the Democrats later today — Sens. Patty Murray and Michael Bennet will likely have won very close races over strong tea party challengers in Washington and Colorado, respectively.
Alaska’s Senate race, however, could take much longer to decide. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who lost the Republican primary to a far-right challenger named Joe Miller, has run an aggressive write-in campaign as an Independent. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, the total proportion of ballots with write-in Senate votes is about 41 percent, five points higher than the proportion of votes for Miller. It will take a while to ascertain if all or most of the write-in votes are for Murkowski. If it’s close, there could be a months-long recount.
If the chips fall where expected, the Democrats will have a small Senate majority in the next Congress — the totals will be 53 Democrats and 47 Republicans (including independent Sens. Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders, who caucus with the Democrats, and Murkowski, who aligns herself with the Republicans).
What does this mean for women and girls? Stayed tuned for Rachel Wallace’s post later this week and see this Friday’s AAUW Washington Update.