President Obama secured his reelection for a second term last night. He campaigned on "real change," but in all likelihood, Washington is in for the status quo and gridlock seen over the past two years, thanks to a divided Congress with no sign of ceasing in its polarization.
Before the election, Republicans held the House while Democrats maintained power in the Senate and the presidency. That balance of power remains today after the election, though Republicans may have lost a few seats in both the Senate and the House (a few races have yet to be determined).
There's little proof that a win of the White House by GOP Nominee Mitt Romney would have resulted in a different outcome. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the idea that Senate Democrats would work with Romney in the event that he won the election was "laughable."
But with a looming debt crisis and and the fiscal cliff fast approaching -- both of which will require bipartisanship to address -- Obama and Romney said they were the ones who could bridge the divide once the election were over. Obama said over the summer he expected the GOP's "fever" to "break" after the election.
"I'd be skeptical of President Obama or Mitt Romney for either of them to 'break the fever' simply by virtue of the election being over," George Washington University Professor and Brookings Institute Fellow Dr. Sarah Binder said. "Historically, presidents have less political capital in the second term. If anything we're expecting status quo of divided government," she said.
The 1980s and 1990s saw major bipartisan reform of welfare, Social Security and the tax code. Binder said chances of that happening today are slim, as the base support of both parties have drifted further to the left and right. "You're not going to get a movement to the center that you've seen in earlier periods of government," she said.
Indeed, Speaker John Boehner -- who will remain the leader of the House of Representatives for at least the next two years -- said in an interview with Politico before the election that maintaining a Republican majority in the House would serve as much a mandate as the reelection of Obama. "We’ll have as much of a mandate as he will — if that happens — to not raise taxes," he said.
Mike Franc, vice president of government studies at the Heritage Foundation, affirmed Boehner's position. He said the GOP's sweep of the House in 2010 would typically result in many of those seats that went to freshmen members turning back over to Democrats; if they didn't, it would mean voters across the country want to maintain that structure. "The lesson learned will be that the American people want more of that and to stay doing what [Republicans] have been doing," Franc said.
Below is a running update on the key House and Senate races we've watched this election. We'll label each candidate as a winner or loser as the results roll in.
What we know: Democrats needed to pick up 25 seats to take control of the House. That's not going to happen. Now that there is no option of a 50-50 split in the Senate that could have been broken by a Vice President Paul Ryan, Republicans need to pick up four seats to take control. That's also not going to happen. Republicans currently have 45 seats to the Democrats' 51. Only two seats are left up for grabs.
U.S Senate races...
Florida: (R) Sen. Connie Mack LOSES v. (D) Bill Nelson WINS
Ohio: (R) Josh Mandel LOSES v. (D) Sherrod Brown LOSES
Texas: Ted Cruz (R) WINS v. (D) Paul Sadler LOSES
Utah: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) WINS v. (D) Scott Howell LOSES
California: Sen. Diane Feinstein (D) WINS v. (R) Elizabeth Emkin LOSES
Nevada: Sen. Dean Heller (R) WINS v .Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) LOSES
Arizona: Rep. Jeff Flake (R) WINS v. U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona (D) LOSES
Nebraska: Deb Fischer (R) WINS v. Bob Kerrey (D) LOSES
Virginia: George Allen (R) LOSES v. Tim Kaine (D) WINS
Missouri: Rep. Todd Akin (R) LOSES v. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) WINS
Wisconsin: Tommy Thompson (R) LOSES v. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) WINS
Indiana: Richard Mourdock (R) LOSES v. Joe Donnelly (D) WINS
Massachusetts: Sen. Scott Brown (R) LOSES v. Elizabeth Warren (D) WINS
Connecticut: Linda McMahon (R) LOSES v. Rep. Chris Murphy (D) WINS
Montana: Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) LOSES v. Sen. Jon Tester (D) WINS
North Dakota: Rep. Rick Berg (R) v. LOSES v. Heidi Heitkamp (D) WINS
New Mexico: Martin Heinrich (D) WINS v. Heather Wilson (R) LOSES
U.S. House races...
Wisconsin...ironically, he lost his vice presidential bid but retained his Congressional seat. Rep. Paul Ryan (R) WINS v. (D) Rob Zerban
Also, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio WINS and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor WINS v. Democratic contender Wayne Powell in Virginia.
California: Rep. Henry Waxman (D) WINS (retaining his House seat)
Illinois: Rep. Joe Walsh (R) LOSES v. (D) Tammy Duckworth WINS
Illinois: Jesse Jackson Jr. (D) WINS v. (R) Brian Woodworth LOSES
Minnesota: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) WINS v. Jim Graves (D) LOSES
Florida: Rep. Allen West (R) LOSES v. Patrick Murphy (D) WINS