I think that if somebody had told me six months ago that Republicans, led by conservatives, would gain more than 60 net seats in the House, I would have laughed at the absurdity of it and then, if convinced it were true, would have hyperventilated with joy.
I think if somebody had told me the same thing even three weeks ago, I would have said I doubted it was true -- and if it did prove true, I would have smiled more inerasably than the Cheshire Cat. And if somebody had told me eight days ago, I would have still been skeptical.
I think, though, that the final Gallup generic poll made me greedy. Now I'm quite happy, but still keep focusing on races where conservatives fell short even though I suddenly had come to count on them winning. A 61- to 66-seat gain seems actually a small disappointment because Ryan Frazier in Colorado, Keith Fimian in Virginia (apparently, although it's still not official), Van Tran in California, Charles Djou in Hawaii, and Jackie Walorski in Indiana all fell short. I really liked what I had seen about those five, in particular.
I am absolutely ecstatic that my friend Tim Griffin is a congressman-elect from Arkansas. I have known Tim ever since he came from Tulane Law up to D.C. for the first time in about 1994 or so, where even before I met him I was advised that he was very ambitious for office but in a way that was endearing rather than off-putting. The advice was right. There is something refreshing about somebody who is guilelessly open about his ambition while completely sincere about his beliefs. Tim, who did phenomenal work at the RNC and in the Bush White House before serving as a U.S. Attorney in his native Arkansas, is absolutely brilliant, and he will almost assuredly be a national political star before long.
Other particularly gratifying House wins were achieved by Renee Ellmers in North Carolina and Tim Scott in South Carolina (I liked both when I interviewed them for columns or blog features), by Allen West in Florida (an incredibly eloquent advocate for a strong defense posture), and by the very sharp former Rep. Steve Pearce in New Mexico. Ditto for Lou Barletta in Pennsylvania, who I really liked when I interviewed him in 2008, and for former Rep. Steve Chabot, a solid conservative who made a comeback in Ohio.
On the other hand, I think that if you had told me in February that Harry Reid would be re-elected, I may have wanted to crawl under a rock and cry for about two weeks straight. I also would not have believed that even the dysfunctional Nevada Republican Party could have found a way to lose that race. The loss by Sharon Angle, whose campaign was a mess, is a disaster. And U.S. Rep. Dean Heller should be widely castigated for declining a chance to run; he would have won both the primary and the general election with ease.
I think that overall the GOP Senate results were disappointing -- good, but no better than I would have expected back in February or so. Ken Buck would have made a good senator, but he ran a flawed general election campaign and lost that race in Colorado which he should have won. Dino Rossi may go down to a third straight excruciatingly heartbreaking defeat (okay, two defeats and a loss by larceny), although there is still a chance as I write this that he might pull it out. A month ago I really thought Carly Fiorina in California, John Raese in West Virginia, and Linda McMahon in Connecticut all had almost even-money chances to win. And if Joe Miller lost to the insufferable Lisa Murkowski's write-in campaign in Alaska (still up in the air), after several faux-pas moments in the past few weeks, then all conservatives should be both flabbergasted and extremely frustrated.
Nevertheless, I think Republicans have some superb new senators. Marco Rubio, Ron Johnson, and Pat Toomey will be tremendous additions to the U.S. Capitol. And Dan Coats' return to the Senate from Indiana is a welcome development, too: He's a good man, and more conservative than the majority of the GOP caucus in the Senate. (Rob Portman from Ohio will be an establishment choice for vice president in 2012, by the way, and conservatives certainly could and have in the past done worse. And Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire has real talent, although she may not be as solidly conservative as we would like.)
I think that bipartisanship will be even harder than before in the House. Not that I have anything against the Republicans who beat Missouri's Ike Skelton and Georgia's Jim Marshall, for instance, but if I had any two Democrats I would like to see continue in office (if I could pick up two GOP seats elsewhere, such as Fimian and Frazier), it would be Skelton and Marshall. Both are strongly pro-defense, and pro-life, moderate on fiscal matters, and men of integrity and decency. Marshall also had proposed a constructive plan for health care. People like that are needed to provide a bridge between the parties. Even if it is good that their replacements will provide more reliable conservative votes, the body politic is diminished when people like that are no longer in office. (Ditto, on the GOP side, for the sincere and hard-working Joseph Cao from New Orleans, who was shellacked after both major publications in New Orleans incomprehensibly endorsed his opponents and after the Family Research Council ran absolutely bizarre radio ads against him -- thus helping defeat a firmly pro-life congressman on behalf of a pro-choice leftist.)
I think John Kasich's victory for governor of Ohio is wonderful news. I don't quite understand why Kasich's race was so close when Portman won so easily for Senate, but Kasich will be a real asset for the people of the Buckeye State. The straight skinny on Kasich is that he can be annoying as hell to be around, because he is so headstrong, but he is a true conservative and a talented communicator. He also will be a real asset for conservatives in Ohio both in redistricting and for the 2012 campaign.
I think that Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina is one of the greatest conservative Senate heroes since Robert Taft. His colleagues can't stand his stands on principle, but without his leadership the tea parties may have felt so disaffected from Republicans that they went their own way in third parties rather than worked to re-energize the GOP. And he was dead right about Marco Rubio and Pat Toomey when John Cornyn was playing footsie with Charlie Crist and Arlen Specter. Thanks almost solely to DeMint, the odds that a majority of new Republicans in both houses of Congress will be "co-opted" by the despicable Washington establishment, as per the offensive comment by Trent Lott, are far, far lower than they otherwise would have been. (Speaking of which: When did a body-snatcher take over Trent Lott's earthly figure? The Lott of the 1970s, '80s, and early '90s was one of the best conservative legislators of his era; but by the turn of the millennium, boy-oh-boy, did he ever go wrong!)
I think California is a heart-rending disaster area for Republicans and conservatives both. Two decades ago, it was still seen as a solidly conservative state -- but once it flipped overnight, it never went back. Carly Fiorina ran a spirited campaign against the unpopular and execrable Barbara Boxer, but still got flattened. Conservatives are no longer totally dominant in Orange County; they do worse among Hispanics than they should; they should do far better in entrepreneurial Silicon Valley than they do; they should do better in rural areas particularly, and among a populace statewide that should be smart enough to recognize that it is gagging on taxes and regulations. The man or woman who can pick the lock of California to get it back for conservatives will be in line to be the next great American president.
Finally, aside from all my "we-can-do-even-better" worry-wart warnings, and aside from the huge message that needs to be understood that the real, hard work hasn't even started, it is important not to forget to marvel and rejoice at the wisdom of the American people and the Madisonian constitutional system. Americans love freedom. Americans resent big government. Americans want to forge their own destinies rather than have those destinies designed by central government planners. Americans remain a center-right populace. And Americans know how to react, through constructive civic action, when politicians forget or ignore these realities.
Tuesday's elections were the biggest victory for constitutional liberty, and for conservatives, since Ronald Reagan swept into office, carrying a Senate majority with him, in 1980. Even though a statist Alinskyite now controls the Oval Office, the American people have shown, unmistakably, that they won't easily let their beloved country be transformed into a leftist dystopia. The American people rose up on Tuesday, and the cause of freedom won.