In many ways, it was the best-case scenario for the Republican Party.
They swept the House in dramatic fashion, and while they didn’t quite win the Senate, they got the next best thing: Harry Reid is still going to be the chief spokesman for congressional Democrats.
It is now the conventional wisdom that the demise of the hated Republican establishment was overstated. Rob Portman and Roy Blunt cruised to easy victories, and those two are the best examples of the best of the Republican establishment.
While most eyes are going to be focused on the shenanigans of Rand Paul and Jim DeMint, if you care at all about effective legislating, Portman and Blunt will be the true stars of this class.
Historians will pore over this election in fine detail for generations. The Tea Party will be mentioned in the same breath as other protest movements in American political history. Are they the new Know-Nothings or the new Progressives? Are they like the Populists of the late 19th century, or are they more like Perotistas of the 1990s?
Time will tell how durable the Tea Party stays as a force in our body politic.
They didn’t have that great of a night, in all candor.
Christine O’Donnell was creamed. Sharron Angle couldn’t beat the most unpopular politician in the country. Joe Miller looks like he will be the first Senate nominee to lose to a write-in candidate in 50 years.
Sure, Rand Paul won, but he won chiefly because his opponent, Jack Conway, ran the most harebrained, stupid commercial in the history of mankind, questioning Paul’s Christian faith. For Conway (a Roman Catholic) to question the religious beliefs of Rand Paul (a Presbyterian), in a state that is pretty overwhelmingly Protestant, was boneheaded at best. It was also politically disastrous for Conway.
Marco Rubio and Pat Toomey both made moves to the center after they got their respective nominations, and while they both can be claimed as Tea Party Republicans, they were also elected Republicans before they were Tea Party darlings.
Republicans who spent the majority of their time defining their differences with the Democrats did very well last night. The Republicans who spent the majority of their time attacking other Republicans didn’t do as well.
There is a lesson here that should be easy for all to see, but will be willfully ignored by some. Republicans have to hang together for the next two years, or they will most likely be hanged separately by the voters in 2012.
John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are plenty conservative. They were also the chief architects of the strategy that brought Republicans this remarkable victory last night. They will have their hands full in trying to keep all the new cats together.
At the end of the day, Republicans will be judged on their ability to keep their promises to change the direction of the country. But to be able to keep their promises, Republicans will have to work together. United they will be powerful and effective. Divided they will be back in the minority in two short years.