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If neither party can ease economic woes for voters, both will find it hard to hold on to political power for long.
Democrats' chances of strengthening their hand in Congress and holding the White House in 2016 could hinge on Obama.
Tuesday's rout again revealed the limits of the modern Democratic coalition.
Several key structural factors will help keep in perspective what Tuesday's results say about the balance of power between the parties.
The newest Senate Republicans will pull the party further to the right.
President Obama's response to global challenges stresses coalition-building over unilateralism.
Dan Patrick, favorite for lieutenant governor, leads the charge against undocumented immigrants, rejecting the softer stances of Rick Perry and George W. Bush.