After a long and expensive midterm election cycle, Democrats have lost the Senate, increased their minority in the House and saw losses in gubernatorial races because of economic woes and presidential unpopularity, leaving Republicans reinvigorated and in control of the legislative agenda for the next two years.
Republicans have gained Senate seats in North Carolina, Arkansas, Montana and South Dakota because of disappointment with unstable economic growth and resentment of President Obama, according to the New York Times.
Sen. Thad Cochran effortlessly beat his opponents Democrat Party candidate Travis Childers and Reform Party candidate Shawn O’Hara to gain a seventh term representing Mississippi in the Senate.
Mississippi’s representatives are Republican Alan Nunnelee, Democrat Bennie Thompson, Republican Greg Harper and Republican Steven Palazzo, all of whom won re-election in the first, second, third and fourth districts, respectively.
Turnout in Mississippi was lower this election cycle than midterms in 2010 and 2006. Only a little over 575,000 voters appeared in this midterm, compared to 788,000 in 2010 and 610,000 in 2006, according to data from the Secretary of State.
“With the great voter inflation in 2010 due to the President’s polarizing legislation, I expected this year’s midterm election to garner the same turnout,” said Nathan Barron, a freshman political science major. “After all, President Obama did make his famous comment that his policies were ‘going to the poll’ with the different Senate elections. I suppose, however, Mississippians were still gun-shy after the traumatizing Republican primary between Sen. Cochran and challenger Chris McDaniel.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R – Kentucky) won re-election, and since the Republicans have taken the Senate, he is poised to be Senate majority leader.
“Contests that were expected to be close were not, and races expected to go Democratic broke narrowly for the Republicans,” according to the New York Times. The jagged economic recovery angered people who then voted Republican to punish the Democrats.
The Democrats also suffered because most of the seats were in traditionally Republican-leaning states in the South and Mountain West.
Two races epitomize the tumultuous landscape Democrats faced: North Carolina and Virginia. In North Carolina, Republican Thom Tillis, who was behind early on, defeated incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan.
In Virginia, incumbent Sen. Mark Warner was thought to be a guaranteed win. However, Ed Gillespie, the former Republican Party chairman, almost defeated him, with less than a 20,000 vote difference.
“Barack Obama has our country in a ditch, and many of his lieutenants running for the Senate were right there with him. The punishment is going to be broad, and it’s going to be pretty serious,” said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee.
With the Republican takeover of the Senate comes a new dichotomy for the American people and the president. The executive branch is headed by a Democratic president, and the legislative branch is filled with Republicans.
Obama will have a choice to work with Republicans on issues of common interest—tax reform and trade—or reject Republican legislation and hope they stumble and allow his party to make a comeback in 2016, according to The New York Times.
In addition to North Carolina, Republicans defeated Democrats in Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota and Arkansas. Moreover, Rep. Cory Gardner (R – Colorado) handed incumbent Sen. Mark Udall (D – Colorado) a hefty defeat, and in Georgia, Republican David Perdue escaped a runoff with Democrat Michelle Nunn, the daughter of popular former Sen. Sam Nunn, for the seat of retiring Republican Saxby Chambliss. Incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R – Kansas) won re-election against Independent Greg Orman.
Democrats did keep their New Hampshire seat, and Democrat Tom Wolf defeated Republican governor Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania. Also, Gwen Graham defeated incumbent Rep. Steve Southerland (R – Florida) in the House race.
“Outside of Congress, Republican gubernatorial candidates saw many successes in the GOP midterm wave,” Barron said. “Larry Hogan and Charlie Baker saw red for the first time in a while in Maryland and Massachusetts, respectively. Their successes punctuate the growing East Coast movement away from the former Democrat stronghold. In prime 2016 campaign ground, the newly elected Florida governor Rick Scott could provide a needed liaison between a national Republican candidate and the independent swing voters.”
Many people are not surprised by the results of the election.
“I think that (the results) were expected,” said Sam Adcock, a graduate assistant with the political science department at USM. “It’s been coming for a long time, and it has become pretty much standard for the party of the president to lose midterm election seats. It happened last time (in 2010) and the time before that (in 2006). It’s just kind of the way it goes.”
Adcock said a few Democrats could have avoided losing or losing as badly as they did had they not deviated from their core values and their main achievements.
“I think Mary Landrieu in Louisiana would have done better if she hadn’t pulled back, and she wasn’t even the worst of them,” Adcock said. “Really, that’s the only thing they could have done.”
As it stands, not only did the GOP keep and widen their majority in the House, but this is also the first time in eight years that they have taken control of the Senate, and after runoffs are complete, the Republicans are expected to widen their majority. Fourteen states have Democratic senators and 36 have Republican senators.