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US elections 2010: What the pundits are saying

Katie Connolly | 07:40 UK time, Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The results of Tuesday's mid-term elections were monumental - a shift in power away from Democrats just two years after they won a historic presidential victory. But they were also almost entirely expected. For months, commentators had warned of a Democratic bloodbath, and they were right. So where to from here?

Liz Sidoti, national political writer for the Associated Press, writes that the country is divided over what to do next:

"Can this new power structure - one with different ideological philosophies to fix increasingly complex problems - actually lead a sharply polarized country that can't agree on where it wants to go? Will the politicians even try? If voters don't know what they want beyond something different from the status quo, how can a government deliver, much less one that's divided? These will be the central questions of the next two years as a weakened Obama, diminished Democrats and resurgent Republicans try to figure out how to meet the demands of a suffering electorate that now seems to perpetually crave change. And how to keep their jobs in 2012."

Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post thinks it will be difficult to get Democrats and Republicans to work together:

"Governance - and particularly building consensus on tough and complicated challenges - can be painstaking and require a degree of trust between the parties that is not likely to be restored anytime soon. The Democratic caucus that will return to Capitol Hill in January is likely to be more liberal than before, after some of its most moderate and conservative members were wiped out Tuesday. And in the tea party, Republicans must grapple with a new political force for whom compromise is seen as a problem, not a solution."

Megan McArdle writes in the Atlantic about the big issues in the next few months:

"The biggest wild cards are on tax cuts and health care. On tax cuts, as someone who thinks that we're going to need to let the Bush tax cuts go in order to address America's mounting entitlement problem, I think the worst-case scenario is that the GOP manages to bully their way to a full repeal. But perhaps optimistically, I think there's at least a chance of a best-case scenario: in the Congressional stalemate, the Bush tax cuts expire. On health care, I think it's likely that the GOP will try to defund much of the health care bill, while leaving the pre-existing condition rules, and perhaps the addition of adult children to their parents' health insurance. If that happens, health care reform will collapse under its own weight, perhaps taking the US insurance market down with it. Can they do it? If they're very smart and strategic, confining their defunding to health care, maybe."

Newsweek's Andrew Romano notes that Republicans were helped in no small part by older voters, a group President Obama has always struggled to connect with:

"Chances are Republicans will be too busy celebrating Tuesday's big victory to ask any questions. That would be a mistake. Winning a single midterm election on the backs of disgruntled older voters in a time of severe economic anxiety is one thing. Basing your party's electoral future on seniors is something else entirely. If Republicans knew what was good for them, they'd start figuring out how to expand their reach beyond retirees before the next election rolls around."

Jonathan Strong of The Daily Caller reminds readers that the new congress doesn't take office until January. Until then, the existing Congress will remain in a "lame duck" session.

"Some of the items on the lame duck agenda are political musts. For instance, if Congress doesn't address the Bush tax cuts, they will expire, a result almost nobody wants... Insiders say it's difficult to gauge the dynamics of the coming lame duck. Democrats could be wary of flaunting the public's repudiation at the polls. Or, fired incumbents free from the tether of their constituents' wishes may use their freedom to push for legislative action."

Links in full

Liz Sidoti | ABC News | Analysis: United but Divided
Karen Tumulty | Washington Post | Once again, the electorate demanded a new start
Megan McArdle | Atlantic | Republicans Take House, Democrats Keep Senate: Now What?
Andrew Romano | Newsweek | The GOP's Senior Moment
Jonathan Strong | Daily Caller | Lame duck outlook: the musts, maybes and the liberal wish list

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