Alex Massie

Speaker John Boehner

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Fox and the other networks have consulted the augurs and declared the signs good for the Republican party. Projections - as at 2am - suggest the GOP will pick up around 60 seats in the House of Representatives. That's roughly in the middle of most of the best pre-election predictions. And it's a very big wave, if not quite a tsunami. In effect, however, it more or less takes the House back to the early Bush years with the GOP holding 230+ seats and the Democrats, this time, somewhere short of 200. Wiping out the past two Congressional elections is not nothing.

But as Marco Rubio*, the newly elected Senator from Florida, put it this elections was not "an embrace of the Republican party, but a second chance to be what the Republican party said it would be, not long ago."  How long this lasts remains to be seen and not the least interesting aspect of the new Congress will be how the new and veteran wings of the Republican caucus get along. Rand Paul - an upgrade, we may all agree, on Jim Bunning - says if he has his way there will be a Tea Party Caucus in the Senate.

In the Senate, mind you, Delaware and West Virginia have (for very different reasons) helped the Democrats keep their majority. Even so, Joe Manchin's acceptance speech in coal-dependent WV was such that you could legitimately have thought he was a Republican. It was the standard "We need to fix Washington" and "work together" stuff. And he promised to put West Virginia first every day. So Democrats will need to protect him from difficult votes if they're to hold the seat in 2012. (Manchin is just filling out Robert Byrd's term.)

So, everything is changed. Obama will speak soon about the need for leadership and bipartisanship. If the GOP holds true to its stated promise that first on the agenda will be drawing federal spending back to 2008 levels then that's one area in which there could be a deal of sorts. But that's probably about it.

Next on the GOP list: making the Bush tax cuts permanent and repealing healthcare reform. Squaring that with these calls for fiscal restraint will, shall we say, be interesting.

What this tells us about 2012 is a different question. Today's voters weren't the people who trooped to the polls in 2008 and the 2012 electorate won't be the same as today's. As Jon Chait points out, according to the exit polls today:

The non-white share of the electorate fell from 24% in 2008 to 19% in 2010. But the age gap is the real tidal shift. In 2008, Republicans won voters over 65 years old by 8 points, but were crushed among voters under 30 by more than 30 points. The under 30 vote outnumbered the over 65 vote.

In 2010, Democrats still crushed Republicans among the under 30 vote, albeit by just 20 points. But the over 65 vote went Republican by a massive 20 point margin. What's more, in today's election, senior citizens constituted more than twice as high a share of the electorate compared to voters under 30. In 2008, the young were 18% of the electorate, and the old were 16% of the electorate. In 2010, the young were 10% of the electorate, and the old were 24% of the electorate.

You wouldn't expect the young to back Obama as strongly in 2012 as they did in 2008. But more of them, one imagines, will vote in a presidential election than could be bothered to cast their ballots today.

UPDATE: 3.20am With Pennsylvania and Illinois now looking like GOP Senate pick-ups, it's worth noting that while the Tea Party has definitely helped in the House (and by energising conservatives) the races in Delaware and, perhaps, Nevada will have been hampered by selecting candidates who weren't mainstream enough to prevail. But, as matters stand, two of the most important people in Washington are Senators Nelson and Lieberman. Which, you will, agree is a most comforting thought...

3.30am: Meanwhile, Proposition 19, which would have legalised marijuana in California, seems to have been defeated. Since this was more important than 98% of the actual races today, this is a shame. Sanity postponed, alas.

*Just for fun: a ridiculous long-term prediction for the future. If Obama wins re-election, 2016 is between Florida's Marco Rubio (R) and Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley (D). You read it here first. Perhaps.

 

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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