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The sweeping GOP victory was about a lot more than a favorable map

Thom Tillis has defeated Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, creating a mathematical certainty of a Republican-controlled Senate regardless of the outcome of the Louisiana runoff or the still-pending election in Alaska. The election may still go into overtime, but it's now about how badly Democrats will lose the Senate, not whether they will. The full results are brutal.

It was clear from months — if not years — away that Election Day 2014 was going to be a rough one for Democrats. The basic Senate map was simply unforgiving. But Democrats shouldn't kid themselves. Their midterm losses were largely about the map, but not all about the map.

Mark Udall, most obviously, lost in Colorado — a state where Democrats have performed quite well in recent years. Nor can Democrats really blame their Senate loss in Iowa on the map. And of course there's also the pesky matter of the governor's race in Illinois, a GOP win that certainly can't be attributed to the map.

From the vantage point of perhaps a month ago, it looked like Democrats might be able to spin this as a general anti-incumbent election. The map for governors' races, after all, was very different from the Senate map, and many of the governors elected in the GOP bumper crop of 2010 looked vulnerable. But with the important exception of Pennsylvania, that hasn't really panned out.

Scott Walker, public enemy No. 1 to the American labor movement, secured a narrow but decisive win in Wisconsin. Rick Snyder, a lower-profile leader who also passed anti-union legislation and put the City of Detroit into receivership, also got himself re-elected. Rick Scott will keep running the show in Florida. John Kasich, who's governed more moderately than many of his colleagues, enjoyed a crushing victory in the swing state of Ohio. And he led a ticket that swept the down-ballot races as well, depriving Democrats of a bench for future Senate and gubernatorial runs. But beyond swing states, Democrats lost control of the governors' mansions in Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts while Republican Paul LePage hung on in Maine.

Nor can Democrats blame their House losses on the map. Even Rep. Michael Grimm, the always-endangered GOP incumbent on Staten Island put into even more danger by a federal indictment, managed to win his race. The handful of seats lost in the House of Representatives won't have much practical impact, but they're powerful proof that Democrats really have lost considerable ground since 2012.

There's no need to over-interpret the election. If there's anything we've learned watching the see-saw of 2008 followed by 2010 followed by 2012, it's that the American electorate has no problem turning on a dime. But let's not under-interpret it, either. Democrats were dealt a bad hand this year, but they lost even worse than that. You can tell a complicated story about why, but the fact that Obama's approval ratings are stuck in the low forties summarize it pretty well. Right now, the country isn't happy with the Democratic Party or its leader. And on Election Day, Democrats paid the price.

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