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Making sense of the midterms

NBC’s Michael Isikoff and Rich Gardella look at the money picture: “A tightly coordinated effort by outside Republican groups, spearheaded by Karl Rove and fueled by tens of millions of dollars in contributions from Wall Street hedge fund moguls and other wealthy donors, helped secure big GOP midterm victories Tuesday, according to campaign spending figures and Republican fundraising insiders.”

“Linda McMahon, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina each made millions as executives in the private sector, and each committed considerable resources to challenge seemingly vulnerable Democrats. But each came up far short of her goal,” the Washington Post writes.

The New York Times recounts how Republicans -- quickly -- went from being in the minority to the majority. "How they did it is the story of one of the most remarkable Congressional campaigns in more than a half-century, characterized by careful plotting by Republicans, miscalculations by Democrats and a new political dynamic with forces out of both parties’ control. The unpredictable Tea Party movement, the torrent of corporate money from outside interests and an electorate with deep discontent helped shift the balance of power in Washington."

“In the end, it may have mattered less whether vulnerable Democratic incumbents voted for or against the health care law than that they simply had a D by their names,” the New York Times adds.

ALASKA: “First she was the shoo-in. Then she was the underdog. Now, in the closing moments of a quirky midterm election season, Sen. Lisa Murkowski appears to be on the verge of making history as the first successful write-in candidate for Senate in more than 50 years,” the Washington Post writes.

CALIFORNIA: “California voters decided election day was not the time for major changes, rejecting five initiatives on the ballot, including one to make the state the first to legalize marijuana and another to undo its ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” the LA Times writes.

IOWA: “Opponents of an April 2009 Iowa Supreme Court ruling that made Iowa the first state in the Midwest to sanction same-sex marriage celebrated on Wednesday after the ouster of three Iowa Supreme Court justices involved in the ruling,” USA Today writes.

KENTUCKY: “A day after a winning a hard-fought U.S. Senate race, Republican Rand Paul said Wednesday he's hopeful a religious attack that backfired on his opponent will head off similar strategies in future political races,” the AP writes. "’My hope is that when someone loses and that issue appears to have had an influence that maybe it discourages people from those attacks,’” Paul said.

NEVADA: “Nevada Democratic Senator Harry Reid overcame tea-party favorite Sharron Angle with an old-fashioned campaign strategy and a political machine that won the day over an upstart conservative, in what was a surprise victory to many, political analysts and campaign strategists said Wednesday,” the Wall Street Journal writes.

NORTH CAROLINA: Rep. Bobby Etheridge (D), who lost to Renee Ellmers (R) isn’t conceding. “Incumbent Democrat Bob Etheridge said that he may seek a recount for U.S. House District 2, where Republican challenger Renee Ellmers held a narrow edge of 1,646 votes out of more than 188,000 counted in unofficial results Wednesday.”

WASHINGTON: “Democratic incumbent Patty Murray and Republican challenger Dino Rossi are heading into a third day of vote tallies in the U.S. Senate race,” the Seattle Times writes. “Murray clung to a small but widening lead after the latest vote counts Wednesday night. There were hundreds of thousands of ballots still to count, and neither side had declared an end to the race.”

The Seattle Times adds that “one of the biggest remaining questions in the U.S. Senate race is how much of the remaining vote will come from King County… King County had estimated a voter turnout of 68 percent, which would translate into about 727,000 votes.”

WISCONSIN: “The Republican wave that swept the nation in Tuesday's midterm election was particularly deep in Wisconsin, bringing into office conservatives who want to make dramatic changes in the state's style of government,” the AP writes. “Republicans won the governor's office, took both houses of the Legislature, captured the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Russ Feingold and picked up two congressional districts, giving them five of the state's eight seats.”

(Hat tip to NBC’s Carlo Dellaverson for several of the clips.)