President Obama surprised us all by scoring a decisive victory that was called at 11:15pm instead of dragging on for days or weeks in “too close to call” agony as many had dreaded. But impressive as his win was there were some victories last night that were truly surprises, as their outcomes were real coin tosses going into the election. Here are some of last night’s biggest winners:
Fierce progressive and unwitting architect of Obama’s “you didn’t build that meme” (it was better when she said it), Warren defeated Republican Scott Brown for Senate in Massachusetts. Brown has been popular in the state, but his reputation for being a hunky charmer wasn’t helped much by making fun of Warren for celebrating Native American ancestry. That never goes over great. Warren, a big consumer protection advocate and champion of the middle class, whipped up one of the most enthusiastic fan-bases in what was probably the most high-profile Senate race this year.
Democrat Tammy Baldwin defeated Republican Tommy Thompson for Senate in Paul Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin. Baldwin became the first woman from Wisconsin to serve in the House in 1998 and last night she made history again as the first openly gay candidate ever elected to Senate.
McCaskill defeated Todd Akin of “legitimate rape” fame for Senate in Missouri. You know, they say that when a complete douche is legitimately nominated for election, the electorate has ways to shut that whole thing down.
Democratic Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly beat out Todd Akin’s rape buddy Richard Mourdock, who enjoyed his own moment in the spotlight recently for saying in a debate that pregnancies resulting from rape are “what god intended.” Mourdock was the only Senate candidate Mitt Romney did the the huge favor of appearing in an ad for.
Last night wasn’t great for the Tea Party agenda, but it appears Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann hung on to her seat against Democratic challenger Jim Graves in the highest-profile House race of the night. It was one of the closest races of the night—AP didn’t call it until well after 2am—and Graves may challenge with a recount, but with Bachmann leading at just over 1% with at least 98% reporting it seems likely she’ll hang on.
Latinos have been increasing their vote share in the last few elections and hit a big benchmark last night, crossing more than 10% of the total vote for the first time in history. The trend will probably continue. Which will probably mean the Republican party will need to rethink their brand identity as the party of angry old white guys.
Same-sex marriage rights were on the ballot in three states last night (Maryland, Maine and Washington) and a measure specifically banning it (Minnesota). It passed in all three states where it was up for legalization, marking the first time same-sex marriage has ever been legalized at the state level by vote instead of by State Supreme Court decision or executive order. Minnesota’s initiative to reaffirm a gay marriage ban lost, meaning same-sex marriage scored a clean sweep last night.
Colorado and Washington state both passed bills to legalize pot for adults over the age of 21. Colorado will start treating marijuana just like alcohol, allowing retail sales to anyone over 21. They expect the sales tax from pot to generate between $5 and $22 million for the state per year.
Nate Silver’s Five Thirty Eight blog for the New York Times was one of the only media outlets calling the race as not even close well before the election. Yesterday he was predicting Obama’s chances of victory at 91%, but he also predicted with insane accuracy how the electoral votes would shake out in battleground states. Almost everyone expected Romney to pick up more than he did. Silver basically crowned himself the political oracle last night, and ensured that when 2016 rolls around we’ll all probably be glued to him instead of CNN.