The 2012 election produced amazing results. President Barack Obama won re-election by recreating his 2008 coalition, losing only two states he swept four years ago. He beat Mitt Romney despite a sluggish economy and fervent anti-Obama feelings in many parts of the country.
The Senate results were even more astonishing. At the beginning of this election cycle, political analysts thought Democrats would lose control of the Senate. But they were wrong.
Democrats picked up a net of two Senate seats, assuming independent Senator-elect Angus King caucuses with the Democrats, and now have 55 seats.
It was also a great night for Council-endorsed Senate candidates. Of the 20 candidates we endorsed, 17 won and only three lost. And our supporters donated a record $2.1 million to Senate and House candidates.
The GOP imploded in its Senate contests again. Two years ago, the party nominated three unelectable Tea Party candidates. This time, Republicans in Missouri and Indiana threw away solid chances for victory with ill-informed statements.
Democrats nominated excellent candidates who knew how to appeal to their states, such as Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, Martin Heinrich in New Mexico and Tim Kaine in Virginia. Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin are rising Democratic stars. Incumbents targeted for defeat by the GOP all survived by running smart campaigns, such as Sherrod Brown in Ohio and Jon Tester in Montana.
Surprisingly, the strong anti-incumbent feeling – approval of Congress hovers around the 15% level – largely skipped Senators and Representatives.
The outsized role of the Super PACs turned out to be something of a myth. Karl Rove and the multi-millionaires who spent great fortunes to defeat Democrats largely wound up with little return for their investment. These outside groups spent more than $20 million in Wisconsin to defeat Tammy Baldwin and more than $30 million to slay progressive hero Sherrod Brown, and misfired both times.
Council for a Livable World and the candidates it backed were subject to attacks full of lies and innuendo in Wisconsin and North Dakota on military spending and Iran. As Mark Twain once said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.” But in the end, both assailed Democratic candidates won with the attacks evaporating into the ether.
The country still faces myriad challenges, with the fiscal cliff at the end of the year being the most immediate challenge. The good news is that the President will remain in the White House and Senator Harry Reid will remain Majority Leader. But the House remains controlled by the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party, and partisan gridlock is likely to continue.
The country faces many foreign policy issues that were set aside during the campaign, including future nuclear weapons policy, persuading Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program, missile defense cooperation with Russia and withdrawal of remaining NATO troops from Afghanistan.
The President has obliterated the national security gap that bedeviled Democratic politicians since the Vietnam War. While only 5% of respondents in a national exit poll taken on election day said foreign policy was their most important issue, the President won this group by 56%-33%.
The President and the Congress have many issues to tackle in the next four years, and have new progressive champions in Congress to help in the pursuit.