The biggest story from the 2014 midterms was not just how Republicans reclaimed red states they lost in 2008—it’s how they won seats in states that Democrats thought they had for their own. The GOP won most of the purple-state Senate battlegrounds, nearly sweeping the lineup of competitive blue-state governors’ races, and picking up House seats in districts that seemed like Democratic locks.
Before the election began, the White House was preparing to spin away a solid Republican night by claiming that most of their victories came in conservative states. After all, the GOP needed only a red-state sweep to retake control of the Senate. But it soon became apparent that Republicans gains were much bigger and more widespread than even the most pessimistic Democrats expected. Even former Obama campaign manager David Axelrod, who dismissed the possibility of a GOP landslide early in the evening, had to tweet his contrition: “Said on @NBCNews earlier that this was not a wave. But the returns since then say otherwise.”
The results weren’t pretty for Democrats: They got swept in Iowa and Colorado, lost a North Carolina race they thought they would win, and are barely hanging on in Virginia—a race they didn’t even think was competitive. Republicans held on to all their contested seats, with incoming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell winning by double digits in Kentucky. In sum, Democrats are staring at the likelihood of losing a net of nine Senate seats, a higher number than their worst-case projections.