Franken, Ellison talk election results

Neither Minn. senators Franken nor Klobuchar were up for re-election.

Mike Mullen

After two consecutive âÄúwaveâÄù elections handed Democrats the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House in 2006 and 2008, the wave crested and rolled back Nov. 2, 2010.
Republicans took the House by gaining 61 seats, including MinnesotaâÄôs 8th District, which had belonged to Democrat Jim Oberstar for 36 years.
âÄúWow,âÄù Republican Chip Cravaack said to a raucous audience in Hinckley, Minn., after Oberstar conceded the race. âÄúWe did it. The voters have spoken, and I hope they are paying attention in Washington.âÄù
They are. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. âÄî who easily held his seat in the stateâÄôs Fifth District, which includes Minneapolis âÄî thinks the election turned on the issue of the high national unemployment rate.
âÄúI think the root cause for [the election] is the economy,âÄù Ellison said. âÄúThe economyâÄôs bad. WhoeverâÄôs the incumbent during a recession is going to suffer.âÄù
Democrats held the Senate, but lost six races to shrink their advantage to 53 seats, including two independents who caucus with the Democratic Party.
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., who rode a similar wave to office in the 2008 election, said not enough Democrats campaigned on legislation passed in the past two years, including health care reform and the economic stimulus.
âÄúI think we didnâÄôt really campaign on our accomplishments, and instead shied away from our accomplishments,âÄù Franken said.
Neither of MinnesotaâÄôs senators âÄî Franken and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. âÄî were up for re-election this year, but Republicans gained seats in neighboring North Dakota and Wisconsin, where three-term senator Russ Feingold was defeated by businessman Ron Johnson.
In an election dominated by the rise of high-profile âÄúTea PartyâÄù candidates, two successfully gained spots in the Senate: Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
At least two other Tea Party candidates lost Senate races, including Sharron Angle, who unsuccessfully attempted to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. In Alaska, Lisa Murkowski ran as an Independent write-in candidate, where she may have defeated Tea Party-supported Republican Joe Miller. The write-in votes, which outnumbered those received by Miller, will take weeks to count. If victorious, Murkowski has said she will caucus with the Republicans.
Ohio Republican John Boehner will take over as Speaker of the House, while Reid will remain Senate Majority Leader.
âÄúStrong philosophical differencesâÄù
With nearly 68 percent of the vote in his victory over challenger Joel Demos, Ellison was able to win comfortably in a year when his fellow Democrats suffered.
But the vote totals are revealing: In 2008, with Ellison running for his second term and President Barack Obama at the top of the Democratic ticket, Ellison received more than 228,000 votes. On Tuesday, he won re-election with about 155,000 votes.
Ellison said the absence of young voters, the 18-to-29-year-olds who made up 18 percent of the electorate in 2008 but only 9 percent this year, was also a factor in Democratic losses.
âÄúYou had a lot of people who Democrats normally rely on who just didnâÄôt come out to vote,âÄù Ellison said.
Similarly, in his loss to Cravaack, Oberstar received around 130,000 votes âÄìâÄì his lowest total in the past decade.
The swing does not spell a conservative majority among voters, Ellison said, and many voters consider themselves moderates.
âÄúThey tend to be voters who donâÄôt watch [MSNBC host] Keith Olbermann or Fox News,âÄù Ellison said. âÄúThey watch Dancing with the Stars. TheyâÄôre not watching stuff super closely. TheyâÄôre kind of voting with how they think one side or the other is doing.âÄù
Before Republicans take the House, a lame-duck session of Congress will begin Nov. 15. Whether âÄî and to what extent âÄî the tax cuts enacted under former President George W. Bush will be allowed to continue is expected to be the central issue during the session.
Other issues will need to be addressed in the near future, Franken said, though he is not sure how that will happen.
âÄúOn all these major issues âÄî on trade, on collective bargaining, on health care for GodâÄôs sakes, on the federal role in education âÄî there are really just philosophical differences,âÄù Franken said. âÄúI mean there are strong philosophical differences, that I donâÄôt know how weâÄôre going to bridge them. And yet, in many cases, weâÄôre going to have to.âÄù