Democrats and Republicans, unsurprisingly, saw the results of Tuesday’s election in starkly different terms. Conservatives were more likely to see in the GOP wave a new mandate to govern from the right. The top Senate Democrat, however, read the message from voters as a greater need for lawmakers from both sides to work more closely together.
The GOP, as expected, won well more than enough seats to recapture control of the House of Representatives but fell short of taking a majority in the Senate. It was the first time since 1930 that a party recaptured one chamber without also taking the other.
Republicans defeated younger Democrats and veterans, alike. Such was the case in Virginia, where Reps. Tom Perriello, a freshman; and Rick Boucher, a powerful subcommittee chairman first elected in 1982, both fell to GOP challengers.
The election will end Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s four-year reign as House speaker, and likely will bring Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) in her place.
Republican activist Gary Bauer trumpeted the election as a “referendum on [President] Obama, and the voters have rejected his agenda.”
“There is no spinning the results: The 2010 election is a referendum on Obama and the voters have rejected his agenda of failed stimulus bills, cap and trade energy taxes, government takeovers, union bailouts and socialized medicine,” says Bauer, a former GOP presidential candidate.
“The voters also sent a clear message about what they expect from Washington. By voting for conservative candidates, they are demanding fiscal responsibility, smaller government and more respect for traditional values,” Bauer adds.
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who survived his own Election Day battle with tea party favorite Sharron Angle, read the mandate differently.
“The midterm elections that just passed were not about political parties and partisan scorekeeping. They were about you: your families, your jobs, your economic security and your future,” says Reid, who will lead a shrunken Democratic majority when the new Congress convenes in January.
“The message that you sent to Washington is that you want Democrats, Republicans and Independents to work together to find the common ground needed for real solutions and real progress. Democrats agree,” Reid says in an “open letter to the American people” posted on the Senate Democratic website. “We understand the frustration felt by all Americans — especially our middle class. We heard you, loud and clear. We’re frustrated too and will continue to fight for what you demand and deserve.”
Voters cited the poor economy and high unemployment as top concerns. Most of those who said they were “very worried” about the economy swung to support GOP House candidates.
Reid pledges Democrats will continue to stand up to “big banks, big oil, those who want to privatize Social Security and other powerful special interests are prevented from taking advantage of you.”
The Nevadan, who was elected to a fifth term, says the GOP takeover of the House means Republicans will now share a greater responsibility for governing — obstruction now longer will suffice.
“And with Republicans securing more seats in both houses of Congress, it is imperative they take their responsibility to offer bipartisan solutions more seriously. Simply saying ‘no’ will do nothing to create more jobs and strengthen our economy,” Reid says.
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.