WASHINGTON – The verdict delivered by voters in the midterm elections will have profound implications for the final two years of President Barack Obama’s term and beyond. Here are five things to know:


It’s nearly impossible to look at what happened Tuesday as anything other than a firm repudiation of the president. Not only did Obama’s party lose the Senate – four years after losing the House under his watch – but they lost key races in states like Iowa, Wisconsin and Colorado that Obama won twice. They even lost the governor’s mansion in Obama’s home state, Illinois.

Steep GOP gains came after Republicans spent hundreds of millions of dollars tying Democratic candidates to Obama. Exit polls reflected why Republicans worked so hard to make the election a referendum on Obama: More than half of voters disapproved of Obama’s job performance – including a quarter of Democrats.


Obama’s aides have said the president would be open to compromise if Republicans won the Senate. Some Democrats have predicted Republicans would be, too. As the argument goes, Republicans eyeing the 2016 presidential race now have an incentive to show that progress is possible when Republicans are in charge.

Potential areas for deal-making include economic matters where there’s some overlap between Democrats and Republicans, like infrastructure, trade and tax reform. But that’s all assuming, of course, that either party is in the mood to compromise. The same bitter partisanship and deep divisions that made progress so difficult before Election Day remain firmly in place.


Obama put off a number of high-profile decisions until after the election. But time is up. And those decisions only become more politically fraught with Republicans in full control of Congress.

Republicans are likely to insist that Obama hold off on nominating a new attorney general until after the Senate is seated. That would subject Obama’s nominee to a GOP-controlled confirmation fight. Obama has also pledged to act unilaterally by year’s end on immigration, but an end-run around Congress becomes harder to defend now that voters have ousted so many Democrats.

Obama must also decide how to handle a flurry of bills that Republicans may pass to try to force Obama’s hand on issues like the Keystone XL pipeline and health care. Until now, Obama has only used his veto pen twice.


Governors were supposed to be the bright spot for Democrats this year. Instead, Democrats fumbled opportunities to seize governors’ mansions in Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida and Maine, while Republicans picked up seats in Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts – three heavily Democratic states.

Those losses are especially bruising for Obama. Unable to help his party’s Senate candidates, Obama campaigning almost exclusively for gubernatorial candidates, only to see most of them lose.

5. ON TO 2016

GOP midterm successes augur favorably for a number of Republicans who may run for president in 2016. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the Republican Governors Association chairman, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul both elevated their own stature in the party as they helped fellow Republicans win their races. Others like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich won re-elections that could lead to White House bids.

On the other hand, Republicans will now fully own whatever dysfunction and gridlock persists in Congress. Democrats will seize on the voting records they accrue to paint the GOP as beholden to the far right in 2016.