The other contests: Congress and Senate
Democrats picked up seats, although not as many as they'd hoped; and ballot initiatives that didn't make it to the stump.
The other big national races were for Congress and the Senate last night. Democrats picked up seats, although not as many as they'd hoped. There were also ballot initiatives revolving around several social issues that didn't make it to the stump. Todd Zwillich of Capitol News Connection and "The Takeaway" political director Andrea Bernstein run down the results.
Senator Elizabeth Dole, who lost her Senate seat in her North Carolina effort last night. Dole said in her closing speech: "Historic wins have swept across the political landscape, unsettling allegiances and toppling traditions. People from faraway places poured tens of millions of dollars into North Carolina, funding tough, unfair, negative ads against me."
And, of course, there were many other big races across the country for Congress and the Senate.
Zwillich: "Well, of course, you just heard from Liddy Dole in North Carolina, and she was one of the first Republican casualties to be called by the networks last night. Kay Hagen defeated her. Libddy Dole there complaining about negative campaigning against her.
"Some of Dole's campaigning in the final week of the campaign, as she became desperate, also made news, ranting out against Hagen, calling – suggesting that she was ungodly or consorted with atheists. And that’s never popular in North Carolina but it wasn't enough to hold onto her seat.
"New Hampshire, John Sununu, one-term incumbent, lost his seat. That was a seat that looked increasingly like it was headed towards Democrats as the race went on. They managed to grab that one away from Republicans, of course.
"Some of the ones that were expected all along in the last, oh, by the last month of the race – New Mexico, Colorado and Virginia – all went to the Democratic column. And then there were just a couple of others I'll point out very quickly.
"Some that the Democrats were very much hoping to grab out from under Republicans don't look like they have. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in Kentucky, has held onto his seat against a fellow named Mark Lunsford, a Democrat."
Mitch McConnell: "Winston Churchill once said the most exhilarating feeling in life is to be shot at and missed. After the last few months I think he really meant to say there’s nothing more exhausting."
Zwillich: "And I caught a lilt of relief and a lilt of humor in McConnell’s voice, which is more than you usually hear from him. He’s one of the most tightly-wound and controlled people you've ever heard. So you could hear in the sound of his voice how much – how relieved he was."
According to Zwillich, there are races that are yet to be determined: "Gordon Smith out in Oregon was called earlier in the night as a defeat for him and a victory for a fellow named Merkley has since been put back into the undecided column.
"And, of course, the race that everyone's following very closely is – two races that everyone's following very closely – one is Ted Stevens in Alaska, the recently-convicted-on-ethics-charges Ted Stevens of Alaska. That race is still too close to call. Stevens appears to have a little minor edge. And the Al Franken/Norm Coleman race in Minnesota is also, has not been officially called yet and is a razor-razor-thin race at this point."
Bernstein says of the ballot measures that were voted on last night: "It's hard to know what exactly happened with Prop 8. I mean, what I was hearing from people working on it was that all of the energy that might have gone into a ground operation for Prop 8 was sucked away into the Obama campaign in various parts of the country."
According to Bernstein Prop 8, "... revokes the right to gay marriage that was granted by the California State Court last June, or last May. And if it holds, it would be the first time that a Constitutional right would be revoked by popular referendum that had been granted by a court.
"But I think that the results from that are still coming in. It looks like it is leading and probably will pass, but I think that the full analysis of where it passed and how is yet to be done.
"But it was clear from yesterday that everybody who sort of had a progressive-leaning agenda was out on the ground for Barack Obama in all kinds of states like the state of Indiana, which Barack Obama won – a very red state."
Some statistical models were showing that if Indiana and Virginia were going to flip, they'd do it together.
Zwillich: "And just Gary, Indiana was always the very last district in Indiana to be called, and so, like, once I realized that Gary was the holdout, I was thinking this could go Obama's way, and it, of course, did."
Bernstein ads: "And then those last results came from Lake County. But Vanderburgh County, Indiana, very interesting – one of our Counties that Count, solid Bush county – 60 percent Bush – voted yesterday for Obama as did all but two of our Counties that Count. And those were very solidly Republican counties.
"But in the end, all of these swing counties ended up going blue, sort of indicating where the country was going."
Democrats had gone into the vote yesterday hoping that they would make a sweep, and they really didn't. They did pick up serious seats, which gives them a more solid majority, not only in Congress but also in the Senate.
Zwillich: "Well, yeah, it depends on your expectations. A sweep? I mean ... close within the margin of possibility, it was never really realistic.
"The Democrats were licking their chops at Mitch McConnell’s seat and Saxby Chambliss’ seat. Were those ever really realistic to unseat in those ruby-red states? Maybe not."
Bernstein: "Well, its still 56 – and there’s two open Senate seats now, so, I mean, it’s a pretty high margin for the Democrats any way you look at it."
Zwillich: "It's – in any other election you'd say, oh, my God, a five-seat gain? That's unbelievable. That's a huge gain in any Senate election cycle. That they – there were such high expectations, that's – always in these elections there’s an expectation-setting game."
"The Takeaway" is PRI's new national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.
More at thetakeaway.org