It was the best of elections; it was the worst of elections.
A general malaise seemed to hang over most politicos in Arkansas the following day. Both parties had victories they could point to, but neither seemed too pleased with the result.
For Democrats, the re-election of President Obama was a bright spot and was an equally stinging blow for Republicans. Arkansas, of course, voiced its opposition to the president’s re-election bid with Mitt Romney carrying the state’s six electoral votes by a 24-point margin. The votes in Arkansas and neighboring states were not enough to impact the outcome. Obama needed 270 electoral votes and won 332, including swing states Ohio, Virginia and Florida.
Republicans believed the president was especially vulnerable this year. A stagnant economy, high unemployment and a foreign policy with problems seemed a recipe for the GOP nominee to defeat the incumbent.
However, Republicans got good news in state and local elections. In all four congressional districts, Republican nominees not only prevailed but won by double-digit margins. The three Republican incumbents were returned to office while newcomer and rising star Tom Cotton got 60 percent of the vote in the 4th District to succeed retiring Democrat Mike Ross.
In addition, Republicans gained the majority of both chambers of the state Legislature. The stronger majority will be in the Senate, flipping six seats to gain a 21-15 margin over Democrats. They narrowly lost four other Senate seats by less than two percentage points.
Republicans took control on the House side, too, but the margin was much narrower. Republicans will hold 51 of the 100 House seats when the regular session convenes in January, up from 46 in the previous session. Most Republicans expected the number to be much higher, but they were pleased to get a majority.
In the House, 59 of 63 incumbents won re-election. Two notable exceptions were Republican Reps. Jon Hubbard of Jonesboro and Loy Mauch of Bismark. Both Republicans embarrassed themselves with their bizarre writings, which made it sound as if they were seeking to justify the institution of slavery or at least make it sound not quite so bad. Voters were tuned in and sent both candidates packing in districts they otherwise likely would have won.
So, the end result of Election Day 2012 was that Democrats in Arkansas enjoyed national success while Republicans made historic gains in state and local races. Such a dichotomy prompted a national reporter to call me this past week to inquire how that happened in Arkansas. I told him that Arkansas is a right-of-center state in a nation that is drifting further to the left.
The situation in Arkansas is really nothing new. Arkansas has always been a conservative state and the Democrats who have had success have often run as conservatives. But as the nation drifts further away from the state’s conservative views, the Democratic Party of Arkansas will have a difficult time not drifting as well. That likely means the trends of 2012 will continue. Arkansas Republicans will achieve more success while the party nationally will continue to struggle.
Jason Tolbert is an accountant and conservative political blogger. His blog — The Tolbert Report — is linked at ArkansasNews.com. His e-mail is jason@TolbertReport.com.