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Obama Addresses Midterm Election Results

| Wed Nov. 5, 2014 1:55 PM EST

Update: President Obama has concluded his press conference. It was the second longest of his presidency. Here is a transcript from the Washington Post.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to discuss the results of the midterm elections this afternoon. To briefly recap: Having seized the Senate for the first time in eight years, Republicans now control both houses of Congress. They also scored a handful of key governor races. To top it off, a new age of the McConnellsance has been all but solidified.

How will the president frame the bloodbath that was Election Day 2014? A shellackin'? A whoopin'? Tune in at 2:50 PM (EST) to find out.

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2014 Bright Spot: South Dakota County Named for Judge Who Pushed Out Indians Changes Its Name

| Wed Nov. 5, 2014 12:18 PM EST

Former Republican Gov. Mike Rounds easily won the South Dakota Senate race on Tuesday, taking advantage of a split field that included progressive Democrat Rick Weiland and an iconoclastic ex-GOP senator, Larry Pressler. Weiland had hoped that American Indian voters, boosted by expanded voting access on reservations, would push him over the top, just as they did with Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) in 2002. That didn't happen.

Shannon County, which includes much of the Pine Ridge Reservation, voted overwhelmingly for Weiland (he took 81 percent of that vote). But turnout dropped from its 2012 level, and the race wasn't close enough for votes on the reservation to matter. There was a silver lining, though: 2,161 residents voted to change the county's name. Shannon County was named for former Dakota Territory Supreme Court Chief Justice Peter Shannon, whose principle accomplishment was to help kick American Indians off their land in the 1890s. The new name: Oglala Lakota County, after the tribe that calls the reservation home.

No word on how many of the no voters were named "Shannon."

It's Power Outage Day!

| Wed Nov. 5, 2014 11:36 AM EST

I almost forgot, but an Edison worker just knocked on my door to remind me that power is scheduled to go out here for a few hours. The last time this happened, I figured I was all set: my tablet was charged and my cell phone hotspot was ready to go. Who needs electricity? Unfortunately, it turned out that the local T-Mobile tower was inside the maintenance area, so it went down along with everything else. No hotspot, no internet connection, no blogging.

This time perhaps I'll be luckier. But if there's nothing new on the blog for the next few hours, now you know why.

A Rudderless Campaign Promises 2 More Years of Trench Warfare

| Wed Nov. 5, 2014 11:14 AM EST

Jonathan Cohn on last night's election results:

The silver lining for Democrats is that Republicans didn't run on a governing agenda. They had no Contract With America, as they did in 1994, and they did not rally behind a single legislative cause, as they did in 2010. In fact, the one message on issues that came through loud and clear—thanks to state-based initiatives—was that people like a higher minimum wage, something that Republicans oppose. As my colleague Danny Vinik has noted, Republicans can't honestly claim a mandate tonight. They can't even claim a mandate to undo Obamacare, the program that they claim to hate most.

No, all Republicans did was say they were opposed to the president . On Tuesday night, that was enough to win.

That's true. If Democrats were unable to unite behind a single, populist message—and it's certainly fair to say they didn't—neither did Republicans. Their campaigns were a mishmash of Ebola and immigration and Obummer and terrorism and vague discontent with a still sputtering economy. There were no unifying themes, and no big-ticket promises for legislative action.

Republicans will have more leverage to make modest inroads on their agenda. But they aren't going to repeal Obamacare, they aren't going to cut taxes on the rich, and they aren't going to outlaw abortion. There's simply nowhere near enough popular support for those things, and they did nothing during the campaign to change that. Roughly speaking, we have another two years of trench warfare ahead of us. The public may think it voted against that, but it didn't.

Last Night's Other Big Winner: Minimum Wage Increases

| Wed Nov. 5, 2014 8:36 AM EST
Protesters rally outside a Burger King in Chicago as part of a campaign to raise the minimum wage for fast-food workers.

Election Day 2014 has been disastrous for Democrats, but on one top priority—hiking the minimum wage—the party made major gains, even in red-state America. Ballot initiatives raising the minimum wage passed with broad bipartisan support in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota, where the measure polled better than any major statewide candidate from either party.

18-Year-Old Wins State Legislature Seat in West Virginia

| Wed Nov. 5, 2014 6:30 AM EST

The Republican wave lifted many boats last night, including that of 18-year-old Saira Blair. The college freshman was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in a landslide—she earned 63 percent of the vote to her 44-year-old Democratic opponent's 30 percent—and officially became the youngest lawmaker in the country. She'll represent a district of about 18,000 people in the eastern part of the state, near the Maryland border.

The Wall Street Journal describes Blair as "fiscally conservative," and she "campaigned on a pledge to work to reduce certain taxes on businesses." Her website boasts an "A" rating from the NRA and endorsements from West Virginians for Life. As a 17-year-old, Blair primaried the 66-year-old Republican incumbent Larry Kump and advanced to the general election—all while legally being unable to cast a vote for herself. Democratic attorney Layne Diehl, her general election opponent, had only good things to say last night about the teenager who beat her: "Quite frankly, a 17- or 18-year-old young woman that has put herself out there and won a political campaign has certainly brought some positive press to the state."

Blair, an economics and Spanish major at West Virginia University, will defer her spring classes to attend the legislative session at the state capitol. There, she'll join her father and campaign manager, Craig, who is a state senator.

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No, Democrats Aren't a Bunch of Hopeless Wimps

| Wed Nov. 5, 2014 1:52 AM EST

Just a quick note about an election meme that's already driving me crazy: Democrats lost because they're timid, vacillating milksops who can barely string together a coherent message and are congenitally unwilling to stand up for their own beliefs. No wonder everyone hates them!

Give me a break. Democrats are Democrats, and they act pretty much the same every election cycle. And yet, they won big in 2006, 2008, and 2012. If they're such gutless milksops, how were those victories possible?

Look: every election cycle features different candidates. Obviously it's possible that, on average, this year's crop of Democrats were more milksoppy than usual. But here's what's far more likely: 2014 featured a fairly ordinary bunch of candidates, and the party's leadership was roughly as effective and visionary (or not) as it normally is. Ditto for fundraising and GOTV efforts.

But every election cycle has structural differences. This one featured a bad Senate map for Dems. It was a midterm election. The party leader was a president whose popularity has waned. The economy continues to be listless. Washington is paralyzed by gridlock, which means that Democrats didn't have many legislative successes to sell. And anyway, a consistent message would have been all but impossible given all the seats they had to defend in conservative states.

Maybe Dems could have done better. Maybe their message this year really was weak and stale. But if your theory of defeat is based on some enduring and egregious flaw that's inherent in the Democratic Party, you should reconsider. It probably doesn't explain as much as you think. Structural explanations that take account of varying conditions are almost always better.

The Filibuster Isn't Going Away, It's Just Changing Parties

| Wed Nov. 5, 2014 1:04 AM EST

Danny Vinik says that with Democrats soon to be the minority party in the Senate, Harry Reid will employ the filibuster just as much as Mitch McConnell ever did:

Reid has a history of supporting the filibuster when in the minority and criticizing it when in the majority. There’s no reason to expect that to change with McConnell as majority leader.

And that’s a good thing. If Republicans are going to reap the political benefits of indiscriminate filibustering, then Democrats should do so as well. The advantage of filibustering is that it allows a party to block progress without taking all of the blame for it, for the simple reason that most of the public—and, surprisingly, most of the media—don’t realize that filibusters are basically thwarting majority rule. Presidential vetoes, on the other hand, are easy for the public and media to understand and easy to appropriate blame. If Democrats relinquished the tool now, they’d give up a chance to make the same sort of gains. It’d be the equivalent of unilateral disarmament.

Agreed. In fact, it never even occurred to me that Democrats might use the filibuster any less than Republicans have over the past six years. The GOP has taught a master class in the virtues of obstruction, and there's no reason to think that Democrats haven't learned the lesson well. The only question is whether Reid will be able to hold his caucus together as well as McConnell held together his.

Actually, I take that back. That's not the only question. Here's the one I'm really curious about: will the media treat Democratic filibusters the same way they treated Republican filibusters? To put this more bluntly, will they treat Dem filibusters as routine yawners barely worth mentioning? Or, alternatively, will they treat them not as expressions of sincere dissent against an agenda they loathe, but as nakedly cynical ploys employed by vengeful and bitter Democrats for no purpose other than exacting retribution against Mitch McConnell? Just asking.

Sam Brownback Holds On

| Wed Nov. 5, 2014 12:53 AM EST

Sam Brownback lives to see another day. The embattled Kansas governor won his reelection bid, defeating Democrat Paul Davis. Polls headed into Tuesday had given Brownback poor odds for retaining his job, but being on the ballot during a horrendous year for Democrats nationwide proved to be enough for Brownback to hold on.

Four years ago Brownback coasted into the governors mansion by 30-points. But during his first-term in office he drove moderate Republicans out of his party in order to implement one of the steepest state-level tax cuts in history. Since then, tax revenues have dropped precipitously and the state's credit rating has been downgraded. The next session of the state legislature will likely have to enact sweeping budget cuts or revoke Brownback's tax cuts, an unlikely scenario now that he's maintained his job.

Davis ran a quiet campaign, banking on dissatisfaction with the incumbent rather than running a proactive campaign laying out his own vision. A campaign based on being Not Sam Brownback didn't prove to be enough in the end.

Pat Roberts Avoids Being The Only Senate Republican To Lose In 2014

| Wed Nov. 5, 2014 12:33 AM EST
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.).

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) on Tuesday avoided the indignity of becoming the only GOP incumbent senator to lose his seat in the 2014 midterm elections. The Associated Press called the race for Roberts at 11:10 p.m. ET.

Roberts was dogged from the start by evidence that he lived in suburban Virginia and not in the state he represented in Congress. (His listed residence in Kansas was a home that belonged to two supporters.) He overcame a spirited challenge by a tea-party-backed doctor named Milton Wolf in the GOP primary. And then Roberts, who is 78, battled back from a sizable deficit against independent Greg Orman, a businessman who conveyed an anti-Washington message and refused to say which party he'd caucus with if elected.

The Kansas Senate race got even more interesting in September, when the Democrat on the ticket, Chad Taylor, dropped out, leaving only Orman and Roberts in the race. Polls at the time showed Orman with as much as a 10-point lead.

When Roberts' vulnerability against Orman became apparent earlier this fall, Roberts' campaign staff was replaced with prominent Republican strategists. Reinforcements in the form of outside money swooped in, painting Orman as a Democrat in disguise and as an Obama ally. (Orman had previously made a brief run for Congress on the Democratic ticket.) The constant attacks on Orman paid off, and Roberts has now secured his fourth term in the US Senate.