The midwest was the key to the GOP’s 60-plus seat victory in the House of Representatives. Where Democrats were able to stave off losses in the west and northeast and even parts of the south, they were creamed by upwards of two dozen seats in states like Ohio, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, where the recession has taken a brutal toll.
Dems had a significant majority going in to yesterday’s election, so the greatest losses were suffered by junior members. Most of them were fully expected. But when you lose this many seats, invariably some surprises get swept along with the tide.
Three Democratic committee chairman lost their seats on Tuesday night. Two of them — Budget chair John Spratt of South Carolina and Armed Services chair Ike Skelton of Missouri — were forecasted to lose. One — Transportation chair Jim Oberstar of Minnesota — didn’t see peril coming until it was too late.
Rick Boucher — a nearly 30-year veteran — was defeated in a Democratic wipeout in Virginia.
Democrats fared remarkably well in North Carolina. But one — Bob Etheridge — was edged out by Renee Ellmers, the Republican who gained notoriety during the campaign for running an ad equating Islam and terrorism. (Etheridge’s claim to fame this election season was getting caught on tape manhandling two young acolytes of Andrew Breitbart.)
Democrats did about as poorly as expected in Tennessee. But the fact that Lincoln Davis got pummeled in a district he drew for himself as a state legislator really drives home just how badly Democrats were crushed in that part of the country.
In a race that’s too close to call, Solomon Ortiz trails Blake Farenthold — the Republican who never made the GOP’s Young Guns tier, and who was photographed at a pajama party wearing duckie pajamas. Ortiz has served since 1983.
The Democrats’ freshman and sophomore classes included five progressives — Alan Grayson, Tom Perriello, Carol Shea-Porter, Mary Jo Kilroy, and John Hall — from competitive districts who didn’t dart to the center at the first sign of danger. Their candidacies were litmus tests for whether conviction politics could help Democrats survive an anti-Democratic election. All of them lost.
Shea-Porter’s defeat means that the GOP will once again have a member representing a New England district — and former Rep Charlie Bass’ win means there will be two from New Hampshire.
The one safe harbor for Democrats last night was the Pacific coast, where they staved off almost all losses. Even California Dem Jerry McNerney, who many expected to lose, is down by only 23 votes at this writing.
All in all a very tough night for Dems.
[Ed note: This post was edited after publication]
Late update: Looks like Blake “Duckie Pajamas” Farenthold has defeated incumbent Solomon Ortiz and will be coming to Congress.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.