The broad Democratic losses could give the former secretary of
state a chance to take over the role of party leader from a wounded
President Barack Obama and sharpen her image as the Democrats' 2016
savior. The results were widely seen as more of a referendum on
questions about Obama’s leadership rather than a sweeping rejection
of Democratic policies.
But the Republican successes also could help launch presidential
campaigns for Governors John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of
Wisconsin, who won tough re-election battles, and Chris Christie of
New Jersey, who campaigned nationally for the party as head of the
Republican Governors Association.
With Tuesday's elections out of the way, the political spotlight
quickly turns to the 2016 race. Clinton is the clear Democratic
frontrunner, while at least a dozen possible Republican contenders
are pondering a run.
Clinton's allies said Republican control of both chambers of
Congress for the first time since 2006 would give her an opportunity
to draw distinctions with Republicans while distancing herself from
The task of creating some distance from Obama was simplified by the
resounding nature of the Republican victory on Tuesday, said
Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf.
"People are not in love with the president today, nor should they
be," he said. "It's going to be easier now."
And if Tea Party-backed conservative lawmakers like Texas Senator
Ted Cruz, another potential 2016 contender, clash with the new
Republican Senate leadership, Clinton could capitalize on any
political fallout, allies said.
“Given the challenges of a Republican Congress and the president
finding common ground, there is likely to be continued paralysis and
frustration at the lack of activity in Washington to address
pressing needs,” said Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist who
worked in Bill Clinton’s White House. “By being out of office, (she)
will have the ability to make clear she is not only someone with a
big idea - but someone with a track record of getting things done.”
But while Clinton is a popular draw with Democrats on the campaign
trail, the candidates she supported did not necessarily fare that
Of the 26 candidates Clinton either raised money for or appeared in
public with, 12 won and 13 lost. Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu,
with whom Clinton campaigned in early November, is headed to a
Among the unsuccessful Senate candidates Clinton appeared with in
the closing days of the campaign were Kay Hagan in North Carolina,
Michelle Nunn in Georgia, Bruce Braley in Iowa and Alison Lundergan
Grimes in Kentucky.
Also having served as Obama's secretary of state, Clinton won't
always find it easy to distance herself from his image and policies.
Gleeful Republicans were quick to point out Clinton's failures and
tie her to the Democratic losses.
"Today voters sent a message to Pres. Obama & Hillary Clinton,
rejecting their policies & often, their candidates," tweeted
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, another likely 2016 contender.
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The Republican National Committee issued a memo titled “Hillary’s
Policies Were On The Ballot.”
For Republicans, victories in tough
re-election races in the swing states of Wisconsin and Ohio boded
well for Walker and Kasich, while Christie's RGA played a big role
in several races that broke for Republicans.
“What was unexpected was how so many Republican governors won. The
return of the blue state Republican governor is a story that came
out of last night,” said Republican strategist Kevin Madden, in
reference to the color associated with Democrats. Madden worked on
the campaign of 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who lost to
Christie has used his RGA position to prove he is still politically
viable after January’s Bridgegate scandal in New Jersey, during
which officials close to Christie were accused of shutting lanes
leading to the George Washington Bridge, causing big traffic jams,
to punish a local mayor who had not endorsed Christie in the state
Christie's large fundraising hauls for the RGA's election campaign
were complemented on Tuesday by high-profile victories in Democratic
and swing states like Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, and
Appearing on five morning television shows on Wednesday, a happy
Christie swatted away questions about what the wins might mean for
his national ambitions.
“It’s way off, and my view on all this is that my job this year was
to elect Republican governors and re-elect Republican governors,” he
said on CBS. He has raised $106 million for the group since taking
over in November 2013, the RGA said.
Madden said the victories would be useful for Christie in proving
his political value, if not necessarily in appealing to Republican
Walker, meanwhile, won his third consecutive expensive and
high-profile race in a Democrat-leaning state, while Kasich won by a
31-point margin in a state often considered the most important in
No senator who is considering a White House bid was up for
re-election on Tuesday, and Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin,
the lone House of Representatives member seen as a likely candidate
in 2016, easily kept his seat.
(Reporting by Gabriel Debenedetti; Editing by John Whitesides and
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