Last night’s results – a historic wave of pickups in the House along with key gains that did not achieve a majority in the Senate – is the best possible playing field for Republicans nationally.
The reality of the Senate results is that the electoral map was bad for the Republicans in 2010 – but in 2012, counting independent seats in Vermont and Connecticut, Democrats are defending 23 of 33 seats up for re-election, with only one or two Republican seats obvious pickup opportunities. (Plus, the Tea Party successes of 2010 should serve as a cautionary tale to incumbents like Orrin Hatch, who might not make the same mistakes that candidates like Mike Castle did.)
The Republicans did, however, scored a convincing win, and now control a legislative body – an important factor in a nation that buys as many Yankees, Cowboys, and Lakers hats as America does.
That means that Republicans can be proactive legislatively, and articulate a vision for the nation. And it also means that vision will run into a legislative buzz saw, because the Democrats control the other half of Congress and the veto pen. In that fog of sawdust, who becomes the “Party of ‘No'”?
The GOP is in the enviable position of being, to paraphrase Reggie Jackson, the underdog and the overdog at the same time.
Of course, this means putting forward policies, and as the Democrats discovered, once you put something on paper it becomes a target. And two years is, apparently, an eternity in politics. But if Republicans can position themselves as the active minority party, their chances in the Presidential and Senate elections in 2012 will greatly improve.