The Scan — October 9, 2013

National Journal
George E. Condon Jr.
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George E. Condon Jr.
Oct. 8, 2013, 4:37 p.m.

Wash­ing­ton faces a drastic­ally changed polit­ic­al land­scape today after Re­pub­lic­ans swept to vic­tory in races across the coun­try on Tues­day, seiz­ing con­trol of the House, mak­ing gains in the Sen­ate, cap­tur­ing mul­tiple state le­gis­latures and gov­ernor’s man­sions, and amp­li­fy­ing voters’ loud mes­sage of his­tor­ic dis­con­tent.

For Pres­id­ent Obama, the mes­sage was both pain­ful and poin­ted as dozens of mem­bers of Con­gress were pun­ished by voters for sup­port­ing his agenda. Those who sur­vived — and the elect­or­ate that gave full vent to its fury — now wait for the pres­id­ent’s press con­fer­ence at 1 p.m. to see what mes­sage he took from his party’s drub­bing.

For Re­pub­lic­ans, whose lead­ers will hold their own news con­fer­ence be­fore Obama’s, there was no doubt of the mes­sage as they began tak­ing steps to grab the reins of power they won Tues­day.

“The Obama-Pelosi agenda is be­ing re­jec­ted by the Amer­ic­an people,” said Speak­er-to-be John Boehner this morn­ing. “They want the pres­id­ent to change course.”

Boehner and Re­pub­lic­an Whip Eric Can­tor met with re­port­ers briefly in the minor­ity lead­er’s of­fice, which he soon will be va­cat­ing for the more spa­cious Speak­er’s suite. He cast the elec­tion as “a man­date for Wash­ing­ton to re­duce the size of gov­ern­ment.”

He also looked ahead to the agenda he will push start­ing in Janu­ary, tak­ing dir­ect aim at the pres­id­ent’s health care re­form. He said he will soon “lay the ground­work” to “re­peal this mon­stros­ity and re­place it with com­mon-sense re­forms.”

But Re­pub­lic­ans stopped short of call­ing the res­ults an em­brace of their party. Ap­pear­ing on CBS’s Early Show, Can­tor said Re­pub­lic­ans have “been giv­en a second chance and a golden op­por­tun­ity.”

The Vir­gini­an ad­ded, “People want to see res­ults. They want to see the gov­ern­ment go on a diet just like they have.”

As speak­er, Boehner will en­joy a ma­jor­ity bey­ond what he had hoped for when he star­ted plan­ning his 2010 strategy. With about two dozen races still too close to call, Re­pub­lic­ans picked up at least 60 Demo­crat­ic seats and lead in four more. It is the biggest power shift in 70 years.

In the Sen­ate, Re­pub­lic­ans won at least six Demo­crat­ic-held seats — Wis­con­sin, Arkan­sas, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, In­di­ana, and Illinois — with the pos­sib­il­ity of gain­ing two more from the three states still be­ing con­tested. The too-close states are Col­or­ado and Wash­ing­ton — both held by Demo­crats — and Alaska.

In Alaska, in­cum­bent Lisa Murkowski ap­peared to be win­ning her long-shot bid to re­tain her seat through a write-in ef­fort des­pite los­ing the GOP primary to a tea-party-backed foe. “It looks a little scary for Joe Miller,” Sen. Jim De­Mint told Na­tion­al Journ­al. The South Car­o­lina Re­pub­lic­an was a strong back­er of Miller, the GOP nom­in­ee. A win for Murkowski, of course, does not al­ter the party break­down in the Sen­ate, though it does guar­an­tee some awk­ward mo­ments when Murkowski en­coun­ters the mem­bers of the GOP caucus who aban­doned her.

The res­ults end an era of one-party gov­ern­ment that was all too brief for Demo­crats, whose 2008 cel­eb­ra­tion is but a dis­tant memory now. The Demo­crat­ic cas­u­alty list is both deep and wide.

The party lost at least 11 gov­ernor­ships, with some of the worst losses com­ing in the in­dus­tri­al Mid­w­est. With omin­ous im­plic­a­tions for the 2012 pres­id­en­tial race and the up­com­ing re­dis­trict­ing, the losses in­cluded Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wis­con­sin, and Michigan, with Illinois still too close to call. Those losses were com­poun­ded by sweep­ing Re­pub­lic­an gains in the of­ten over­looked battles for state le­gis­lat­ive cham­bers. At least 18 cham­bers flipped to GOP con­trol, giv­ing Re­pub­lic­ans their highest num­bers since 1928, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tion­al Con­fer­ence of State Le­gis­latures.

Two gubernat­ori­al races did not pro­duce win­ners un­til this morn­ing. In polit­ic­ally pivotal Flor­ida, Demo­crat Alex Sink con­ceded to Re­pub­lic­an Rick Scott even though neither the net­works nor the As­so­ci­ated Press had de­clared it over. Earli­er in Ver­mont, Re­pub­lic­an Bri­an Du­bie con­ceded to Demo­crat Peter Shum­lin.

In elec­tions shad­owed by high un­em­ploy­ment, Demo­crats had very few vic­tor­ies to cel­eb­rate. They did hold Re­pub­lic­ans short of the 10 wins they needed to gain con­trol of the Sen­ate. And they did pre­vail in the highest-pro­file con­test, as Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id of Nevada nar­rowly de­feated tea party fa­vor­ite Shar­ron Angle.

An ob­vi­ously re­lieved Re­id made the morn­ing show rounds, pledging to work with the newly em­powered Re­pub­lic­ans.

“All of us — all of us — who are go­ing to be in the Sen­ate have to work to­geth­er. That’s the mes­sage from the Amer­ic­an people,” he said on CNN. He in­sisted he is “look­ing for­ward to that.”

He ad­ded, “I have a good re­la­tion­ship with Mitch Mc­Con­nell, my Re­pub­lic­an coun­ter­part. I’ve known John Boehner for many years, and I think this is a time we need to set aside our speeches, and start rolling up our sleeves and have a little sweat on our brow.”

New­comers who come to the Sen­ate without such ties to the vet­er­ans will make the ter­rain more dif­fi­cult to nav­ig­ate. Tea party fa­vor­ites Rand Paul in Ken­tucky and Marco Ru­bio in Flor­ida eas­ily de­feated their Demo­crat­ic rivals des­pite be­ing cast as ex­trem­ists. But Christine O’Don­nell lost badly in Delaware, a state that Re­pub­lic­ans had long thought would be in their column.

Even amid the cel­eb­rat­ing, the tea party in­sur­gents sent a mes­sage to a Re­pub­lic­an es­tab­lish­ment that had tried migh­tily to de­feat them in primar­ies.

“We make a great mis­take if we be­lieve that to­night these res­ults are some­how an em­brace of the Re­pub­lic­an Party,” Ru­bio said. A rising GOP star, Ru­bio seized his new role as a party lead­er and po­ten­tial pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate, cast­ing the res­ults as “a second chance for Re­pub­lic­ans to be what they said they were go­ing to be not so long ago.”

Even as he claimed the Speak­er’s gavel, Boehner said, “The Amer­ic­an people are de­mand­ing a new way for­ward in Wash­ing­ton.”

With un­em­ploy­ment at 9.6 per­cent na­tion­ally, in­ter­views with voters re­vealed an ex­traordin­ar­ily sour elect­or­ate, stressed fin­an­cially and poorly dis­posed to­ward the pres­id­ent, the polit­ic­al parties, and the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.

About 4 in 10 voters said they were worse off fin­an­cially now than they were two years ago, ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­in­ary exit poll res­ults and preelec­tion sur­veys by the As­so­ci­ated Press. More than 1 in 3 said their votes were an ex­pres­sion of op­pos­i­tion to Obama. More than half ex­pressed neg­at­ive views about both polit­ic­al parties. Roughly 40 per­cent of voters con­sidered them­selves sup­port­ers of the con­ser­vat­ive tea party move­ment. Less than half said they wanted the gov­ern­ment to do more to solve prob­lems.

The pre­lim­in­ary find­ings were based on Elec­tion Day and preelec­tion in­ter­views with more than 9,000 voters.

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