Last Tuesday brought about a watershed in Obama’s administration. The US House saw massive GOP wins, securing a Republican majority of over 60 seats. With this win, Republicans have won the largest House takeover by either party since 1938. The GOP also took a majority of the 37 governorships and gained control of 19 state legislatures. Democrats maintained a majority in the Senate, succumbing to six net Republican gains. Key races that were deemed tossups by pollsters gripped the politically conscious, with some concessions not coming until days later. The overall shift in party allegiance from Democrat to Republican made striking statements, with Obama’s party not only losing the Senate seat he vacated for the White House, but also two state legislatures that have been Democrat-held since the 1870s, specifically those of North Carolina and Alabama.
Among the most especially contentious races was one in Indiana District 2, where Notre Dame is located. College Republicans helped campaign for Republican candidate Jackie Walorski, and College Democrats did so for ND alum and district incumbent Joe Donnelly. While Donnelly won the race, he did so only very narrowly, by 1.3 percent of the 189,562 votes cast. Discussion abounds on the margin, with South Bend’s Libertarian candidate Mark Vogel garnering about five percent of the votes this year. Had his 9,455 votes gone to Walorski, a Republican win would have easily been secured, considering Donnelly’s lead of about 2,500 votes. Still, it has been argued that voters for the Libertarian candidate turned out simply because of the third-party representative, and that votes for Vogel may not have been guaranteed Republican had the candidate not run.
California and Florida were also the home of highly watched races, resulting in Democrat Barbara Boxer’s holding onto her Senate seat in typically Democrat California despite a major campaign for former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. In the Sunshine State, Republicans saw sweeping wins, with Senatorial and Gubernatorial seats claimed by the GOP. Marco Rubio gained 49% of the votes in his bid for the Senate, topping projections for the Cuban candidate. The state had a three-way Senatorial race between Rubio, Democrat Kendrick Meeks, and Republican-turned-pro-choice-Independent Charlie Crist. With Crist as a contender, some feared Rubio would be especially vulnerable to loss, making Rubio’s win especially pronounced.
With the GOP wins possibly reflecting a widespread public resistance to the Obama administration, much speculation has surfaced regarding why, as well as questions about what comes next. Some feel that anger over the high rate of unemployment, at slightly below 10%, prompted an anti-incumbent fervor. Others feel that the passage of the Affordable Health Care Act incited much of the opposition to the Democratic agenda.
Whatever motivations comprised the large-scale GOP victories may be, the federal government of January 2011 will undoubtedly prove to be an interesting assortment, with chambers of Congress divided, and Obama in the White House. Some feel that gridlock will ensue, with the Senate and House posing roadblocks on each other and Obama. Others are more optimistic, hoping that bipartisanship and compromise will mark discussion on Capitol Hill. Moreover, there is a high degree of speculation on what Obama’s mode of action will be in light of the new Congress. In a post-election White House Press Conference, the President declared, “I have been willing to compromise in the past and I am willing to compromise going forward.”
Considering Obama’s statements, and his acceptance of “full responsibility” for the nation’s frustration, some foresee his position next year to be especially complicated. With a new Republican House and a Democratic Senate majority, Americans may see Obama aligning himself consistently with one Congressional chamber, leading to a fundamentally changed presidential dynamic. How this altered state of Congressional relationships—and a possibly reinforced preference towards Democrats—will affect public perception of the Obama administration can only be speculated. With predictions on the 2012 Presidential election already entering political discussion, only time can tell how the White House and Congress will interact.
Josh is a senior who hasn’t a clue about what to do after May of 2011. If you have any ideas, e-mail him at email@example.com .