Well, before we start all the recriminations and the strategerizing, or even the post-mortems, lets just look at what we’re left with; what do we hold from which to plan a return?
The picture here this morning looks surprisingly like the picture in the aftermath of the 1992 election.
Senator Obama appears to have won the popular vote by about five points – it will probably be closer to six when all the votes are totaled. He has won somewhere between 349 and 376 electoral votes, depending on the outcome in Nebraska’s third congressional district, Missouri, and North Carolina. Using present vote totals, Obama would take North Carolina out of that group, to finish with 364 electoral votes.
In 1992, Clinton beat Bush by 5.3 percentage points in the popular vote, and finished with 370 electoral votes. Yes, there was a big difference – the presence of Ross Perot – but Clinton almost certainly would have won with or without Perot, and probably by very similar margins in both categories. Bottom line is that Democrats won in 1992 presidential just about what they won in the 2008 presidential.
If fact, even the electoral college map looks quite similar; depending on who wins North Carolina and Missouri, between just nine and eleven states will differ from 1992 to 2008. Most of those were extremely close this year, too, notably Montana and Georgia, which went Democratic in 1992 and narrow Republican in 2008, and Florida, Indiana, and Virginia, which went Republican in 1992 and barely Democratic in 2008.
After the 1992 election, the Democrats held a 56-44 edge in senate seats. After 2008, including the two independents (Lieberman and Sanders) who caucus Democrat, and assuming Republican margins in Alaska, Oregon, Georgia and Minnesota hold, the Democrats will hold a 56-44 edge in the Senate.
After the 1992 election, the Democrats held a 259-176 edge in the House. After 2008, it currently looks like the Democrats will hold about 252 seats in the House – there are a few races still hanging that could add a couple more seats to their margin.
After the 1992 election, the Democrats held a 27-21 advantage in governorships, with two liberal independents. After the 2008 elections, the Democrats hold a 29-21 edge in governorships.
In short, the party split in federal offices and governorships as we enter 2009 will be almost exactly what it was entering 1993.
Of course, there are differences – the Republicans actually gained 9 House seats and broke even in the Senate races in 1992, for example. But my simple point is that Republicans, though we took a thumping last night and are clearly in minority status, retain a considerable base from which to mount a comeback – indeed, a base almost identical to that held two years before the smashing election victories of 1994. And last night was not the complete wipe-out some feared. Most people thought the Democrats would win at least 57 or 58 senate seats. Most predictions I saw had the Democrats gaining closer to 30 House seats, not 20. A slightly better showing in Washington and North Carolina and the GOP could have actually gained a governorship last night. I haven’t been able to compare all the state legislative results, but again, it wasn’t a total blow out last night: Republicans took control of legislative chambers in Oklahoma, in Tennessee, maybe North Carolina. I don’t know where all else we had bright spots, but I’m sure their were many – for example, efforts to target two GOP Justices on the Ohio Supreme Court failed miserably, and the Court remains 7-0 Republican.
We’ll save for later discussion of how to best go about recreating a 1994 type win for 2010. Obviously, there are underlying facts that make 2008 different from 2009, some for the better, some for worse. But for now, just use these numbers to take heart. We’ve been here before, and come roaring back.