Update: The Associated Press has called Minnesota's 6th district for Rep. Michele Bachmann, who held off Jim Graves by one point. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Rep. Allen West trails by about 2,500 votes, but the race has not yet been called.
Adding to the GOP's misery on Tuesday night: The continued demise of the tea party wave. Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Allen West (R-Fla.) were both locked in tight races with their Democratic challengers as of early Wednesday morning, with recounts possibly forthcoming. (Update: As of 4 a.m. EST, the district's final tally showed West losing by just under 2,500 votes.) A third ringleader, Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), lost to Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth by nine points.
Bachmann's poor performance—she led by just 1244 votes with 91.4 percent of precincts reporting as of 4 a.m. EST—was a reflection of her own dimming popularity in a district she's represented since 2006. She was expected to cruise to re-election after a non-partisan redistricting panel made her suburban Twin Cities seat, already Minnesota's most conservative, even more red. But after a quixotic presidential campaign and a never-ending string of embarrassing statements (such as her assertion that a top Hillary Clinton aide was a Muslim Brotherhood plant), that's not how it turned out. Bachmann faced off against Jim Graves, a Minneapolis hotel magnate who was able to give his campaign seed money and—critically, in a tight race—persuade the Independent Party not to field a candidate in the race. That the race was tightening was evident over the final weeks of the campaign, as Bachmann sought to redefine herself, improbably enough, as a independent-minded deal-breaker capable of working across party lines to bring home pork for her district.
West, a freshman legislator, sought to win a district that went to Obama by just three points in 2008. But he faced a formidable challenger in Patrick Murphy, a former Republican whose family runs a huge contracting business in South Florida. Murphy picked up the backing of national Democrats (Bill Clinton flew to West Palm Beach for a fundraiser) and raised more money than almost any other challenger in the country this fall. He also received a boost from a super-PAC, American Sunrise, seeded with $250,000 from Murphy's father, Thomas. Like Bachmann, West tried to shift attention away from his bomb-throwing rhetoric, running campaign ads portraying himself as a defender of the social safety net, and a dyed-in-the-wool environmentalist. To wit:
In one of the campaign's most memorable television spots, he drew a contrast between his two-decade military career and Murphy's youth—seizing on a disorderly conduct arrest from 2003, when West was on the verge of shipping to Iraq. (Left unmentioned: The detainee abuse that sparked West's return stateside.) Watch:
With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Murphy led West by just over 1,000 votes.
Wins for Democrat Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, Republican Deb Fischer in Nebraska, and Democrat Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin will make all three the first female senators from their state. And Democratic women successfully defended their Senate seats in Missouri, Minnesota, California, Michigan, Washington, and New York. Meanwhile, Hawaii will send either Democrat Mazie Hirono or Republican Linda Lingle to the Senate, meaning that there will be at least 18 19 women in the Senate—and it could still be 19 20 if Democrat Heidi Heitkamp pulls out a win in North Dakota.*
* It looks like we undercounted in our initial estimate.
With multiple networks now calling Ohio for the president, Obama will return to the White House for four more years. Stay tuned for more soon from MoJo's David Corn, reporting from Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago.
In an Senate race that pitted two former governors against each other in Virginia, Democrat Tim Kaine has eked out a win over Republican George Allen.
Kaine, the former head of the Democratic National Committee, won one of the most expensive Senate matches of this election. The race attracted more outside spending than any other in the country, topping $52 million. (That's beyond the $32 million that the campaigns themselves spent.)
Allen sought to reclaim the Senate seat he held from 2001 to 2007, when he lost to Jim Webb, a Democrat that served as the Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan. That loss was largely attributed to a viral video in which Allen was seen calling a Democratic tracker the racially-loaded term "macaca." Mother Jones' reporter Tim Murphy chronicled Allen's comeback attempt earlier this year.
Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill engineered one of the most stunning reversals of fortune in the 2012 election cycle, defeating Republican Rep. Todd Akin to claim another six-year term in the US Senate. At her campaign's outset in the summer of 2011, McCaskill was largely seen as the weakest Democratic senator on the ballot anywhere in the country. But ultimately it was McCaskill's gritty campaign combined with Akin's eyebrow-raising comments about rape that sealed her victory on Tuesday and denied Republicans a must-win seat if they hoped to reclaim the Senate majority. In an interview with a local TV station in mid-August, Akin claimed that if the rape of a woman is "a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Akin's "legitimate rape" comment ignited a political firestorm, angered women everywhere, and flipped Missouri's US Senate race on its head. Akin later said he "misspoke," but the damage was done. Powerful Republican groups like the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Rove's American Crossroads super-PAC, its affiliate Crossroads GPS, and other outside groups pulled their money out of Missouri. So damaging were his comments that a chorus of Republicans demanded Akin drop out of the race. Rove even joked about Akin's murder at the Republican National Convention in August.
Akin stood firm. "The people of Missouri chose me to be their candidate," he told ABC in late August. "And I don't believe it's right for party bosses to decide to override those voters."
But Akin, like fellow rape-gaffe Republican Richard Mourdock in Indiana, never recovered from his "legitimate rape" comment. Despite regaining some of his political and financial support, he trailed McCaskill by 6 percentage points heading into Tuesday's election in RealClearPolitics' polling average.
McCaskill's win, like Sen. Sherrod Brown's in Ohio, shows that outside money isn't so useful when it supports a weak candidate. McCaskill faced tens of millions in attacks from super-PACs and dark money groups—to no avail.
The Missouri Senate race marks yet another disappointment for Republicans. They were supposed to send McCaskill packing. But they couldn't muster the candidate to get the job done.
Ladda Tammy Duckworth is the child of a gun-loving World War II vet and a Thai immigrant of Chinese descent. She lost her legs piloting a Blackhawk helicopter through an insurgent attack in Iraq. In January, using prosthetic legs, she will step onto the floor of the US House of Representatives as the first combat-injured female member of Congress in the history of the United States.
Duckworth was elected to the House on Tuesday by voters in Illinois' 8th District, unseating Joe Walsh—a loud, brash tea party freshman whose tough talk on fiscal matters was belied by a personal history that included delinquent child support and a condo foreclosure. The deep-blue state Legislature had redistricted the 8th into a Democratic-friendly mix of affluent Chicago suburbs and immigrant strongholds; Walsh—who'd only won election in the tea party wave of 2010 by 290 votes out of more than 200,000 cast—was basically abandoned by national Republicans. It didn't help that Walsh called the president "a tyrant," and at virtually every opportunity dismissed Duckworth's military service and yelled at constituents.
In his place, Capitol Hill receives a favorite of the Democratic establishment; Duckworth is a former Obama assistant secretary of veterans affairs, a solid blue vote, and an impossibly upbeat personality headed to a fractious and frozen Congress. But in the Illinois 8th, a major waypoint for Midwestern industry and infrastructure, she pushed local issues: manufacturing, jobs, and social programs for the underprivileged. "My strength is in finding ways to make the government work for the people," she told me this summer, "finding waste, or money that is not being properly used…or finding opportunities that are out there and making them work for the community."
But before she heads to Washington, Duckworth has an extra stop to make next week: On November 12, she'll gather with old Army buddies in St. Louis for her "alive day," when they celebrate surviving the attack that took her legs. She'll reunite with the copilot of her fated helicopter, Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Milberg, who beams when he thinks about Duckworth's future in Congress—even if they don't always see eye-to-eye on politics. "Too many people, military people included, are too willing to have a pity party. Man, there's no time for pity parties—look at this gal," he said. "I look at her and I think: 'What have I got to be cryin' about?'"
Alan Grayson, the bomb-throwing Florida Democratic congressman who was tossed out in the tea party wave of 2010, is going back to Washington. After moving to the newly drawn, deep-blue 9th congressional district after redistricting, Grayson is easily topping his Republican challenger, lawyer and perennial candidate Todd Long, by double digits.
Grayson, who served just one term in Congress before losing to GOP Rep. Dan Webster, carved out a reputation in Washington as a progressive capable of exploding at any moment on nearly any issue. Among other things, Grayson said that former Vice President Dick Cheney has blood "dripping from his teeth," called a female lobbyist a "K-Street whore," said Rush Limbaugh was "more lucid when he was a drug addict," and warned "Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick."
But if you expected Grayson to tone down his act during his two years in the wilderness, you obviously don't know anything about Alan Grayson. On Sunday, he wrote on his Facebook page that, "Sometime between now and Tuesday, they'll say that an Obama victory means the Mayan Apocalypse, 45 days later, and only Mitt Romney/Todd Long/whoever can save us from that. They just keep pushing that big, red PANIC button, over and over and over again."
Grayson's bombast could be exhausting at times, but as my colleague Andy Kroll noted in 2010, he was also a voice for issues even Democrats tended to ignore:
In the recent foreclosure debacle, which introduced regular Americans to "robo signers" and "foreclosure mills," Grayson was a leading voice demandinginvestigations and highlighting the most glaring problems with the foreclosure pipeline. His pressure, combined with dozens of other members of Congress, helped to spur a nationwide probe involving by all 50 state attorneys to scrutinize into banks' alleged wrongdoing in the foreclosure process.
If GOP Rep. Allen West holds on to win, Florida can probably lay claim to the two members of Congress most hated by the other side.
Bruce Majors, candidate for DC Delegate to US House
We probably don't need an exit poll to say with some confidence that DC real estate agent Bruce Majors has lost his race against incumbent Eleanor Holmes Norton for the ever-so-powerful job of DC Delegate to the US House of Representatives. Majors is best known for his 15 minutes of fame two years ago when he wrote a guide advising people visiting DC for a Glenn Beck rally to stay away from subway lines that serve predominantly poor black areas. That earned the scorn of everyone from Rachel Maddow to Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, who said he thought Majors was "scaring white people." He was an unlikely challenger for Norton's job. A tea partier, libertarian, professional Internet troll, and gay rights advocate who has given thousands of dollars to Democrats in years past, Majors has been a fixture in local city politics for a couple of decades.
He ran against Norton mostly with his own money, and didn't ever have much of a shot of winning. But he seems to have an ulterior motive for his campaign: securing a permanent slot on the DC ballot for the Libertarian Party. It's a laudable goal. When it comes to local politics, DC is a one-party town. Virtually every city office is held by a Democrat or a Democrat pretending to be an independent to win a seat on the city council, where the law requires two seats to be held by people of a different party. If Majors wins 7,500 votes from the city's libertarian/Republican/Ron Paul voting block, the Libertarians won't have to spend a small fortune every two years to get on the ballot, and DC voters might have another choice, even in races as meaningless as the DC delegate race.
The DC delegate election is one of the more depressing features of voting as a DC resident. Those of us who live in the nation's capital suffer from taxation without representation in the US Congress. Voting for Norton is just a reminder of that second-class status. The 22-year incumbent gets to attend congressional hearings and hang out with real members, but she doesn't actually get to vote on anything outside of committees. Yet every two years, she raises hundreds of thousands of dollars, mounts a campaign, a fringe candidate makes a stab at running against her, and we pretend it's a real exercise in democracy.