In the U.S. midterm elections November 4, Republican candidates exceeded the predictions of pundits — and possibly their own expectations — as voters frustrated with the stalemate in Washington during the past two years punished President Obama and the Democrats.
On November 5, some races remained undecided, either with vote totals so close that a recount is likely or through the failure of any candidate to win a majority, mandating a runoff election.
The Republican Party has expanded its majority in the House of Representatives by at least 10 seats, and could achieve its largest majority since the 1940s by the time all the results are final.
Republicans also picked up enough Senate seats to take control of the Senate in the upcoming Congress, which convenes in January 2015.
In 2015, two states — West Virginia and Iowa — will be represented for the first time by female senators.
Senate seats that “turned over” from Democrat to Republican control included Iowa, Colorado, Arkansas, Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia, North Carolina and Alaska.
In Virginia, Democratic incumbent Mark Warner holds a very narrow lead over Republican challenger Ed Gillespie, but votes in that race might be subject to a recount. The contest in Louisiana for a Senate seat is almost certainly headed to a runoff election in December.
During the midterm campaigns, Republican candidates capitalized on Obama’s low popularity by linking their opponents with the president, while Democrats were unable to use presidential endorsements to bolster their campaigns.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell celebrates his re-election with his wife, former U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, in Louisville, Kentucky, November 4.
Analysts credit (or blame) the Obama administration’s flawed rollout of its health care initiative and voters’ concerns about national security challenges like ISIL and Ebola for the electorate’s strong turn to the right in the 2014 midterms. In a November 5 press conference, the president responded to the outcome.
“What stands out to me is that the American people have sent a message,” Obama said. “They want us to get the job done.”
The president noted he had already reached out to current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and to Speaker of the House John Boehner to congratulate them on the Republican victories.
“We can surely find ways to work together” on issues that are important to the American people, Obama said.
McConnell, who won re-election, said that if he is chosen as Senate majority leader in the next Congress, he will work with President Obama.
“Just because we have a two-party system doesn’t mean we have to be in perpetual conflict,” McConnell said November 4. Despite the Republican majority, McConnell likely will face internal struggles in forging a coherent, consistent coalition between moderate Republicans and the party’s more conservative branch that is known as the tea party.
In a press conference November 5, McConnell expressed particular interest in working with the president to promote international trade.
Republicans also enjoyed success in state governments across the country, with Tom Wolf, the Democratic victor over Republican Governor Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania, giving the Democrats one of their few reasons for celebration.
In hotly contested races in Florida and Wisconsin, incumbent Republican governors retained their seats. One of the evening’s biggest upsets occurred in Maryland, where Democrat Anthony Brown, the current lieutenant governor, lost the open seat to Republican businessman Larry Hogan.