So what happened this election cycle? As voters across the country head to the polls today, here are a few thoughts.
Democrats never succeeded in changing the trajectory of the election cycle that developed roughly midway through last year.
Once voters decided President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats werent the answer, the election cycle was set. That doesnt mean that the size of the Republican wave was inevitable, but it does mean that all of the Democratic spin turned out to be little more than hot air.
Democrats wanted to blame President George W. Bush and make the midterm elections a referendum on the last Republican president and the last Republican Congress. But while voters agreed that Obama inherited an economic mess from his predecessor, they saw the 2010 election as an opportunity to tell Obama how he was doing, not as a time to repeat their previous verdicts on Bush.
Democrats insisted that the election was a choice, not a referendum. It certainly didnt turn out that way. When one party controls both chambers of Congress and the White House, the election is always a referendum. If you arent sure about that, just ask Republican strategists about 2006 and Democratic operatives about 1994.
Democratic operatives and talking heads have been complaining for weeks about money coming from outside Republican groups, and there is no doubt that groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Crossroads, American Action Network and 60 Plus Association helped Republican candidates (although Democrats rarely note that the U.S. Chamber also ran TV ads for some business-friendly Democratic House candidates).
But if Democrats ignore their own outside allies and blame GOP money for the midterm results, they are deluding themselves. Republican money wouldnt have been there without the Democratic agenda, and GOP spending wouldnt have been as effective had the president been viewed as having a successful two years.
The first time you hear some idiot talking head on TV arguing Democrats lost because they compromised too much with Republicans during the past two years, turn the TV off. Yes, you will hear that case made, but it is inane and delusional. The Democrats biggest problem is not that their most liberal supporters stayed home.
The tea party movement helped generate enthusiasm for Republicans, but it helped produce so many ill-prepared, inept and damaged candidates that it turned out to be a decidedly mixed blessing for Republicans.
Christine ODonnell cost the GOP a Senate seat, and regardless of the outcomes in Alaska, Colorado, Nevada and Kentucky, national Republican strategists wouldve had an easier time winning Senate seats if more experienced candidates with broader appeal had won primaries.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.