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The midterms: The big day is here

The Boston Globe’s front-page headline: “Day of decision in year of discontent.”

So how did we get here? Stu Rothenberg: “Democrats never succeeded in changing the trajectory of the election cycle that developed roughly midway through last year. Once voters decided President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats weren’t the answer, the election cycle was set. That doesn’t mean that the size of the Republican wave was inevitable, but it does mean that all of the Democratic spin turned out to be little more than hot air.” But, he adds, “Don’t read long-term trends into this election or any other. This country is changing, and that will have a long-term effect on our politics and our political parties. But elections reflect the here and now. Two years ago, that benefited Democrats. Today, it benefits Republicans. We don’t yet know what 2012 will look like, or what party or candidates will benefit from it.”

An important reminder: “The campaign for some candidates won’t end with today’s vote, with election officials and lawyers preparing for possible recount battles in several states,” AP writes. “The large number of too-close-to-call congressional races in such states as Colorado, Nevada, Illinois, and West Virginia has some observers predicting more contested elections and recounts this year. At the very least, a slow count of ballots in such states as Washington and Alaska is expected to keep many voters in suspense.”

Campaign of the weird: “Even in a campaign season defined by unconventional candidates, unpredictable outside groups and an unexpectedly large playing field, there is still plenty of opportunity for Election Day drama,” Roll Call says. “The tea party movement is dispatching thousands of political novices to monitor voting places today, Connecticut wrestling fans may be forced to shed branded clothing to vote, Alaska will feature the most important spelling bee in state history and widespread accusations of voter intimidation and voting fraud are likely.”

“As of Monday, outside groups had spent $294.4 million in the runup to Election Day, more than every other midterm cycle since 1990 combined, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets.org. This cycle’s price tag is also just shy of spending totals for unions and politically minded nonprofit organizations during the 2008 election cycle, when a protracted presidential campaign pushed outside spending to $301.7 million,” Roll Call writes.

“From Florida to California, third-party candidates pulling a point or two of the vote on Election Day might make the difference between winning and losing,” Roll Call’s Bellantoni writes. ‘Forty-seven is the new 50,’ a Democratic official closely watching House races told Roll Call. There are third-party House candidates in at least a dozen districts who will draw votes from Republicans and Democrats. In a regular election cycle, that might prove irksome, but this year it could be a blessing for embattled incumbents hoping to hold on to their seats during a rough night.” Watch: VA-5, NY-23, IN-9, FL-12, CO-4.

“The Senate might not have any African-American members after the election, when Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), the only sitting black senator, vacates his seat,” The Hill reports. “Overall, the Senate has never had more than one black member at a time. Burris replaced President Obama in this distinction after filling his Illinois seat following the 2008 election. Before Obama, Carol Moseley Braun, also from Illinois, served from 1993 to 1999. In total, there have been six black senators since Reconstruction.”

“Voters in three states will cast ballots Tuesday on the new healthcare law's individual mandate to buy insurance,” The Hill reports. “Arizona and Oklahoma are expected to pass the state constitutional amendment, but it faces an uphill battle in Colorado.”

Political Wire has this fun reminder about convention wisdom: “Benjy Sarlin looks back to the 1994 midterm elections and finds nearly every forecaster predicted a Republican gain of 20-25 seats in the House of Representatives.”