The national maps of Tuesday’s election results have a pattern reminiscent of the Bush years: a huge swatch of red within a thin blue frame.
But there is one big difference. Back then, Democrats actually won beyond the coasts.
Two years ago, liberals told Republicans to move to the left or risk becoming a regional party for Southerners.
Today, that’s as laughable as President Obama’s promise to heal the planet and stop the ocean’s rise. Or that line about the stimulus keeping unemployment under 8 percent. Or the one where his health reform would prove popular. Or — well, you get the idea.
Speak no more of a “permanent majority” for either side, but it’s clear that the Republican tsunami of 2010 came ashore along the Great Lakes. That, along with changes due from redistricting, could mean the waves will keep crashing years from now.
The GOP did strengthen its grip across the South: Alabama’s statehouse is Republican for the first time since the 1870s. Democrats bled hard-won congressional seats in North Carolina and Virginia. And of course Georgia Republicans finally picked off Blue Dog Democrat Jim Marshall.
But consider these shocking results from Big Ten country:
In Wisconsin, the Democrats lost the governor’s mansion, both chambers of the statehouse and a U.S. Senate seat, while watching the congressional delegation flip to Republicans. Similar stories played out in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
In Illinois, the GOP took Barack Obama’s old Senate seat, and that state’s House delegation will also be mostly Republicans. Indiana was jolted out of its brief leftward drift.
Individual congressional races tell an even fuller story.
To be sure, the Democrats lost a large number of seats they’d captured from Republicans in 2006 and 2008.
But they also lost the seats of powerful committee chairmen like Minnesota’s Jim Oberstar (congressional Class of 1974) and Missouri’s Ike Skelton (Class of ’76). They lost Virginia’s Rick Boucher and South Carolina’s John Spratt (both Class of ’82). These were among the old liberal lions who pushed Americans until we pushed back Tuesday.
The Dems lost open seats in Arkansas, West Virginia and Wisconsin that they’d held since 1968. They lost Al Gore’s old House seat, which they’d controlled since ’82, and another Tennessee seat that had been Democratic since the 1920s.
Along the way, the landscape of “battleground” states may have changed dramatically.
Based on Tuesday’s results — and granted, it was just one election — you’d put swing states such as New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania squarely in the GOP’s column.
Republicans have to be pleased to go through redistricting with at least 29 governors and total control of half the nation’s state legislatures — including almost all of the states expected to gain seats and electoral votes in 2012.
Republicans now have a real opportunity to repeat the electoral success of the Reagan era. But such opportunity can be fleeting for a party that strays from the voters’ wishes.
Just ask the Democrats.