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Political Forecast: Cloudy

Analysis: After the GOP's victory, less sweeping than 1994, expect two years of gridlock.



At first glance, Tuesday's election was an obvious rout of Democrats.

The convention wisdom is that popular frustration with the lack of job growth, President Barack Obama's health care law, growing federal debt and deficits and the expansion of federal government power, either real or imagined, fueled the drubbing.

Democratic Congressmen Tom Perriello, Rick Boucher and Glenn Nye lost their seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The fate of Gerald Connolly isn't known yet. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Henrico County easily won reelection and with Republicans now in charge of the House, he'll likely be House Majority Leader, giving the Old Dominion GOP new luster in Washington.

But if one starts to dissect the voting, the exercise becomes a bit more confusing.

Perriello lost in the conservative 5th District because he backed Obama on many issues, including health care. Nye, in the 2nd District, lost because, for one reason, he broke with Obama on health care. Boucher, a veteran, 14-term congressman from the state's coal country, lost because he backed cap-and-trade legislation to control global warming. Perhaps, but  real cap and trade is quite a ways into the future and the boom, if any, in the state's coal industry is from exporting metallurgical coal to Chinese steel mills which would not be affected by any U.S. cap and trade law.

If you read columnists at The Wall Street Journal, Cantor is responsible for the Republican victories because he helped conceive and lead a come-back strategy for his party starting as early as January 2009. The “Young Gun” admitted his party strayed during the years of George W. Bush, although Cantor forgets he voted lockstep with Bush on just about everything.

So, what's next? If Cantor's strategy prevails, we are certain to have a federal legislature that won't do anything at all. One reason is that the Democrats still control the Senate, so Tuesday's results will not have the impact of the 1994 races when anger at then-President Bill Clinton, including the failure of “HillaryCare” medical insurance reform, resulted in Republicans taking both houses of Congress.

While they lack the 1994 mandate, Cantor and his fellow Republicans will raise the “Party of No” to a new level, but it will still be “No.” They'll likely spend the next two years trying to repeal Obamacare, which is still a long-shot because the Senate is still controlled by Democrats. If repeal does pass both houses, Obama still has veto power.

As for creating new jobs -- a key theme during Cantor's campaign -- there hasn't been much as far as ideas.

Another curiosity is how Cantor will get along with U.S. Rep. John Boehner, who will likely replace Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. But don't expect a new GOP love fest. There appears to be tension between Boehner and Cantor, who somehow left Boehner out of his recent “Young Guns” book. 

As for the Tea Party movement, they got on the roadmap by fanning their frustrations with Washington, but they didn't have a complete sweep. Delaware's Christine O'Donnell, for instance, was easily defeated despite her support from Sarah Palin.

True, Tuesday was a GOP victory. But it was a limited one and did not give the GOP both houses of Congress as their 1994 rout against Bill Clinton did. Ironically, the 1994 Republican victory actually brought about an era of bi-artisanship and compromise that led to some successful legislation such as welfare reform.

It's premature to cast Virginia's new congressmen and Cantor's ascension as progress. More than likely, it will lead to two years of stalemate.

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, Congressman Tom Perriello's name was misspelled. We regret the error.

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