With their landslide victory in the midterm election, Republicans rearranged the nation’s political landscape. They strengthened their position in the Midwest, gained a foothold in the Northeast, and practically drove Democrats out of the South.
Republicans also turned themselves into a more diverse party, at least at the top. Two African-Americans – Allen West in Florida and Tim Scott in South Carolina – won House seats. They can now form a black Republican caucus, with the hope of growing it in the future.
By winning the Senate race in Florida, Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American, is likely to become a Republican star in Washington. And Susana Martinez was elected governor of New Mexico and Brian Sandoval governor of Nevada. Both are Hispanics.
The effect of all this was to restore Republicans as a national party, strong again in the Midwest, more dominant than ever in the South, and competitive in the Northeast. Meanwhile, the national reach of Democrats shrank.
Republican success in the Midwest was across the board. Democratic governors were replaced by Republicans in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and maybe in Illinois. Republican Mark Kirk captured President Obama’s old Senate seat in Illinois and businessman Ron Johnson defeated Democratic Senator Russ Feingold in Wisconsin.
House seats? Republican won five Democrat-held House seats in Ohio, two (and maybe a third) in Michigan, two in Indiana, three in Illinois, and two in Wisconsin.
After their losses in the 2006 and 2008 elections, Republicans had practically been driven out of the Northeast. Yesterday, they recovered, winning five House seats in New York, five in Pennsylvania, two in New Hampshire, and one in New Jersey. In Maine and Connecticut, Republican candidates for governor were leading.
The Democrat retreat in the South was even more dramatic. Republicans won the governorships of Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama and led in Florida. Republican John Boozman ousted Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas and won two House seats in the state of retiring Democrats.
Their House gains across the South were significant: three in Virginia, three in Tennessee, four in Florida, two in Mississippi, and one each in Georgia and Louisiana. They also upended the notion that House Democrats with conservative records are all but impossible to defeat. Instead, Republicans beat Jim Marshall of Georgia, Bobby Bright of Alabama, and Travis Childers and Gene Taylor in Mississippi – four of the most conservative Democrats in Congress.
Republican Renee Elmers picked up one House seat in North Carolina, and Republican Senator Richard Burr, whom Democrats thought was vulnerable, won handily.
Nationwide, Republicans far exceeded the average gain – nearly four in the Senate, 24 in the House – for the party out of power in Washington. When all races are decided, they will have gained 60-plus House seats and six to eight Senate seats.
And they set themselves up to benefit from reapportionment of House seats based on the 2010 census. They now control the governorship or legislature, or both, in most of the states that will lose or gain seats and will be forced to alter the lines of districts dramatically.
There’s nothing like a landslide to change the fortunes of a political party. And their prospects of winning the Senate in 2012 look bright at the moment. Twenty-four Democrat seats will be at stake, but only nine Republican.