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First thoughts: Historic night

*** Historic night: Another election, another night of history. Republicans last night won back control of the House, netting approximately 60 House seats, the largest midterm gain by one party since World War II. It also was the first time since the direct election of senators that the House flipped but the Senate didn’t, with the GOP gaining (for now) six seats. And, per the latest count, Republicans picked up seven governorships. What’s still outstanding: The Senate races in Alaska, Colorado and Washington, and the GOV races in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon, and Vermont.

*** Boehner couldn’t have asked for a better result: The likely next House speaker, John Boehner, couldn’t have asked for a better result from last night. With Democrats in charge of the White House and the Senate, Boehner’s GOP-controlled House now has the potential to pass legislation at will, but blame the Obama administration and the Senate for the inability to get things done -- or to pass THEIR versions of legislation (like, say, repealing health care). Which ever party wins the spin war over the expected gridlock in Washington will have the upper hand heading into 2012.

*** Something about Harry: Despite his big win last night, is Harry Reid’s position in leadership totally safe? On “TODAY” this morning, he sounded as if he was trying to send a message to the Democratic incumbents who are up in 2012 that he’s received a wake-up call and he can lead the Democratic Senate in these tumultuous political times. But remember: Many of the 2006 Dem Senate class have ties to Chuck Schumer.

*** Good news and bad news for Team Obama: If you’re David Plouffe or David Axelrod, last night wasn’t a complete disaster regarding 2012. Joe Sestak’s and Ted Strickland’s narrow losses in Pennsylvania and Ohio, respectively, demonstrate that the path to victory in those states is still in reach for Obama (with a little help from the economy). The Senate races in Colorado and Nevada also suggest that Dems still have juice in the Mountain West. (The Latino vote, which Harry Reid won 68%-30% in Nevada, will only grow in size between now and ’12.) And Team Obama has to feel heartened by the fact that North Carolina wasn’t the bloodbath other states were. On the other hand, the Midwest -- particularly Indiana and Wisconsin -- was a problem for Democrats, even with Sestak’s and Strickland’s close defeats. Per the exits, Republicans won the region, 53%-44%, a reversal from 2008, when Dems won the region, 54%-44%. And Florida feels a lot redder than it did after ’08.

*** Obama and turnout: Obama’s campaign appearances in Illinois and Pennsylvania certainly helped Alexi Giannoulias and Sestak keep their races close. Giannoulias crushed Mark Kirk in Chicago, while Sestak lapped Pat Toomey in Philly. Where these Democrats didn’t fare as well, at least relative to ’08, was in the Chicago/Philly suburbs. But while Obama helped keep those races close, midterm turnout was down for the Dems from 2006 -- 126,000 less in Pennsylvania, 273,000 less in Missouri, and 330,000 less in Ohio, per Dem pollster Fred Yang.

*** Obama meets the press: At 1:00 pm ET, the president holds a White House press conference to discuss yesterday’s midterm results.

*** The Tea Party’s successes and failures: So how did the Tea Party fare last night? By our count, 113 of the 129 House GOP nominees we identified as being associated with the Tea Party won their congressional races, which is an astounding success rate. [CORRECTION: After 20+ hours of crunching numbers, your First Read authors looked up on MSNBC and heard the above number rattled off, and we included here. We went back and checked and the number is much lower. Tea Party-backed candidates only won overall about 32% of their races. Just 40 of 130 won races (so far) in the House. That's just 31%. For more on Tea Party numbers, click here.] On the other hand, we can count at least two Senate races (Delaware and Nevada) -- and possibly a third (if Ken Buck loses in Colorado) -- that the GOP lost because its Tea Party nominees were too conservative for their states. Make no mistake: If Republicans had already won in Colorado, Delaware, and Nevada, they’d be just one seat away from taking the Senate. And we’d be glued to the final votes coming from Washington state...

*** The GOP’s establishment-vs.-Tea Party divide: As one Republican source reminds us, “establishment” GOP Senate candidates (like Kelly Ayotte, Dan Coats, John Hoeven, John Boozman, and Mark Kirk) fared much better than the Tea Party-backed Senate candidates. The losses by Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle will only advance the ideological split inside the GOP between the purists and the pragmatists. Just check out Jim DeMint’s Wall Street Journal op-ed.

*** The midterm electorate: Per NBC’s Ana Maria Arumi, a closer look at the exit poll reveals that the voters who participated in yesterday’s midterms were older (23% were over the age of 65, an eight-point increase from ’08) and whiter (78% were white, a four-point increase from ’08)… 56% said that the government is doing too many things (versus 43% who said that in ’08)… Independents broke in favor of Republicans, 55%-39% (versus breaking for Obama 52%-44% in ’08)

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