President Obama has always wanted to be a historic president. In an election that was driven by Obamacare, he took another big step toward that end on Tuesday — just not in the way he intended.
Five years ago, the Democrats held a 20-seat majority in the Senate and a 79-seat majority in the House. Then they passed Obamacare. They did so in clear defiance of public opinion and over unanimous Republican opposition in both chambers. After the American people’s clear verdict on Tuesday night, Republicans will likely have an 8-seat majority in the Senate and will have at least a 51-seat majority in the House. That’s a 28-seat swing in the Senate and 130-seat swing in the House since the pre-Obamacare days.
These are historic losses. Consider the following:
The last president who lost control of the House in one election and then lost control of the Senate in another was Woodrow Wilson, nearly 100 years ago.
If Republicans end up winning the Senate races in Alaska and Louisiana, as expected, then Obama will have lost 14 senators since his first year in office. The last time a president lost more senators from his first year onward was when Ulysses S. Grant lost 16 senators — from 1869 to 1875.
Prior to the 2010 election, the last time the Democrats lost at least 63 House seats while also losing control of that chamber was in 1894, shortly before Babe Ruth’s birth.
Obama was the first president in American history to lose 63 House seats in his first midterm election, and he has now lost additional House seats in his second midterm election.
Even in the unlikely event that the Democrats win all 13 of the House races that remain to be decided, they will still hold fewer House seats as of January than they have at any time since 1949, when Joe Louis was the undefeated heavyweight champ.
In short, Obamacare is helping Obama — and his allies — enter the record books. As much as the election was bad news for Obama, however, it might have been even worse news for his namesake.
The election was bad news for Obamacare not only because that legislation took another public shellacking, and because the number of legislators willing to defend it is dwindling. It was also bad news for Obamacare because of what happened in Virginia. For on a night of great Republican victories, the GOP’s standout performance may well have been in defeat.
Virginia senatorial candidate Ed Gillespie appears to have fallen just short in his effort to topple heavily favored incumbent Mark Warner. (The challenger trails by less than 1 point in a race that has yet to be finalized and could be headed for a recount.) But alone among Republican senatorial candidates, Gillespie ran on a detailed conservative alternative to Obamacare. In advancing such an alternative, and in almost pulling off a monumental upset while doing so, he broke new ground and offered his fellow Republicans a useful political and policy blueprint going forward.
With the right conservative alternative in play, Obamacare can be repealed. That is the main lesson that Republicans should take away from Tuesday night’s triumph.