Republicans Gain Biggest House Win in 60 Years

The Republicans won 60 seats in the House of Representatives in the 2010 mid term elections, the biggest win for any party since 1948 and larger than their Contract With America win under Newt Gingrich in 1994. Driven by the wave of Tea Party anger at intrusive wasteful government, the Republicans also picked up 6 Senate seats, including Democratic strongholds such as President Obama’s former seat in Illinois and Pennsylvania, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 1.5 million. However, the Republicans may once again have been lucky, in that they failed to win several seats which should have been easier to win, such as senate leader Harry Reid in Nevada, the state worst affected by the property collapse and Delaware, where Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell’s admission of dabbling in witchcraft lost a winnable seat.

Why lucky? Given the strongly held opinions of the numerous Tea Party freshmen, Republican control of both houses of Congress might have led to unduly radical actions such as the attempted shutdown of government by Newt Gingrich in 1995, or the attempted impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998. Given the present mood of suspicion towards both parties, any attempt to overplay their hand by the Republicans could risk their present strong position. While it is likely that the size of the Republican majority is such that President Obama and the Democratic Senate will compromise over such issues as the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the next few years and agree to modify carbon emission legislation, given the President’s track record over his first two years, it is hard to see much coming out of this election except gridlock. This is probably a good result, given the uncertainty caused by the enormous volume of legislation introduced by the Democrats in the last two years, and business may even be willing to begin hiring again and increase capital expenditures.

However, it is a mistake to remark, as commentators on MSNBC were doing, that the President’s party always loses seats in midterm elections, although both Bill Clinton and George W Bush gained seats in 1998 and 2002. The size of the Republican House win, with independents voting 55% in their favour against 44% in 2008, and with the demographics of their vote including majorities amongst older, better educated and wealthier voters and almost equality amongst female voters indicates that unless the economy turns around dramatically in the next 18 months, the Republicans will regain control of the Senate and probably the presidency if they choose an electable candidate. It will be up to Ben Bernanke and his latest U$600 billion quantitative easing package to carry the load after this election.

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