Wave elections can be like Christmas… if your party is the one catching the wave. You tend to get what you expected, with perhaps a few surprises, but there are always a few things you really wanted that are not under the tree.
For the GOP, most believed that control of the Senate was a foregone conclusion, and the GOP certainly got what they expected. They also hoped they would pick up a few seats in swing states such as New Hampshire and Virginia, but that didn't happen. And there were more than a few surprises that no one predicted, like GOP victories in the Governors' races in Illinois, Massachusetts and even Maryland (where King & Spalding Senior Counsel, former Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich, can no longer claim to be the last Republican Governor of the Old Line State).
If your party is the one being swept away, all you can do is hold on tight and hope for a better day tomorrow. In the end, though, this election did not leave much remaining for Democratic Party candidates. The numbers are not just staggering…they are historic. The GOP has not won this many seats in the House of Representatives since 1928 -- the last election before the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression. That was 86 years ago. The GOP holds a 58 vote margin in the 435 member House of Representatives, 246-188, having picked up 12 seats in the election.
The recent runoff in Louisiana was the final marquee race of the 2014 session. Incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996, was defeated 56% to 44% by Republican Congressman Dr. Bill Cassidy. In a runoff filled with missteps (for example, Landrieu questioning where Cassidy was in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, only to find that he, along with some fellow physicians, were busy setting up an emergency health clinic in an abandoned Baton Rouge K-mart), Landrieu's defeat left Bill Nelson of Florida as the only Democratic Senator in the Deep South.
But the GOP's incoming 54-46 Senate majority is not the only story from this year's elections, as Republicans won big at the state level as well. The GOP not only held onto the Governor's mansion in several states that were seen as vulnerable (Rick Scott in Florida, Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Paul LePage in Maine), but picked up some states where few thought the GOP would even be competitive (Illinois, where Republican businessman Bruce Rauner unseated Democrat incumbent Pat Quinn; Massachusetts, where Republican businessman Charlie Baker upset Attorney General Martha Coakley; and Maryland, where businessman Larry Hogan defeated Democrat Lt. Governor Anthony Brown). The winner of the race in Vermont will be decided by the legislature, as no candidate received the required 50% of the vote. Incumbent Peter Shumlin, who also serves as Chairman of the Democratic Governors' Association, fell about 2,400 votes shy of winning re-election outright to his underfunded opponent, political newcomer Scott Milne, but with Democrats controlling the Vermont state legislature, there is little doubt that Shumlin will get a third two year term in January.
Only in Pennsylvania did an incumbent Republican Governor see defeat, when Republican Tom Corbett lost to Democrat Tom Wolf, the former Pennsylvania Secretary of Revenue and a businessman who pledged to turn around the Keystone State's economy. The common theme in each of these races was a successful businessman with limited political experience defeating candidates with long careers in politics.
Going into Election Day, the GOP controlled 59 of the 98 partisan legislative chambers. That number will rise from 59 to 67 in the aftermath of the election, and the GOP will control both legislative chambers as well as the governor's mansion in 24 states. By contrast, the Democrats control the governorship and both chambers in only 6 states. The one state where neither party controls is Nebraska, which has a non-partisan, unicameral legislature. Unofficially, however, Republicans outnumber Democrats by a large margin in the Cornhusker State.
The GOP even picked up control of the State Senate in reliably Democratic states like New York and Washington.
The wave swept through Georgia, as well. Despite polls showing extremely close races for Governor, where Democrat State Senator Jason Carter, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, was challenging incumbent Republican Nathan Deal, and for the United States Senate, where political newcomer and businessman Republican David Perdue, cousin of former Governor Sonny Perdue, was facing Democrat Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former U.S. Senator and King & Spalding Partner Sam Nunn, neither race turned out to be that close.
In the Perdue-Nunn race, Perdue beat Nunn 53-45% with Libertarian Party candidate Amanda Swafford receiving about 2%. It was about the same in the Governor's race, as Nathan Deal received about 53% to Carter's 44%. Libertarian Andrew Hunt received about 3%.
Most polling up to Election Day predicted both races would end up in runoffs, with a slight chance that Governor Deal might escape that fate. Only one poll, which came out the weekend before the election, conducted by pollster Mark Rountree of Landmark Communications, showed both Perdue and Deal likely winning their races on Election Day without runoffs.
Among the biggest surprises in Georgia was the 12th Congressional District contest, where conservative Democrat John Barrow was unseated by challenger Rick Allen. The 12th had been a thorn in the Georgia GOP's side for years. It had reliably voted Republican in presidential elections but, since 2004, election after election had sent the GOP candidate for Congress home and Democrat Barrow to Washington. Barrow maintained his position as the Deep South's lone white Democrat in Congress. No one, except for possibly Rountree (whose polls pointed to a possible upset late in the race), expected Barrow to lose. In the end, he too was swept out, losing by a stunning 10 point margin, 55-45%. Once again, it was a race between a businessman with limited political experience and a candidate with a long career in politics.