A few thoughts from last night's results:
1) Very surprised that the House and Senate were so different. Looks like the Dems will only end up losing 6 Senate seats, but they got creamed in the House, and historically speaking, the large disparity is an outlier, as generally House and Senate track fairly well together. Not sure how to interpret that, indeed, if there is anything to interpret.
2) If there is actually a debate between those who thing divided government is good or bad, put me down as an agnostic in general (and certainly historically you can find evidence for divided governments actually getting things done) but I don't think the GOP deviates much at all from their playbook for the past two years, which basically had one play in it, and it was "don't let Obama do anything."
3) From the turnout numbers, it is clear that the reason Dems lost is that young people made up a much smaller proportion of voters than did old people, relative to 2008. This shouldn't be a surprise, as midterms usually have that property. But still, I take it to mean that you should take everything you read about the election's "meaning" with a big grain of salt. That said, I think Obama has to shoulder some of the blame for low turnout among young voters (am I still a young voter? hmm...) I think issues that the young in particular care a lot about -- environment/energy & gay rights, to name two -- were basically low priority for Obama, and it wouldn't surprise if that led to some disillusionment on the part of young voters. Put another way, while health care may have been a big deal to the Kennedy generation of Democrats, I don't think it is as big deal to Democrats born in the 80s.
4) I said it at the time, and I'll say it again, Obama/Reid/Pelosi made a big mistake by not going hard at the Republicans to make them take tough votes on bank regulation in the summer and fall of 2009. Or, really, making them take tough votes ever.
5) So what, if anything, do last night's results mean for 2012? Well, if you wanted to write a positive story for the Democrats, I think what you'd have to focus on, given the horrible economy, is that they were very competitive, and even won, a lot of state-wide races in which they ran incumbent politicians in key electoral battlegrounds. Sestak in PA, Sink in FL, Strickland in OH -- they didn't win, but they were all very close. Likewise, they held on to the seats they should have held on to, generally: Senate seats in CA, WA, and, impressively, CO and NV. Now, that's not to say there aren't tremendous red flags, too. But you saw a lot of Democrats at the state-level do pretty darn well, all things considered. Put another way, Obama can afford to lose states like Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, which he won in 2008, so long as he can hold the more traditional swing states of PA, OH, and FL.
6) I'm not sure this is a lesson anyone will learn per se, but I was happy to see that the two candidates who were egregious in their insistence that they didn't have to talk to the media or answer questions or undergo any vetting at all, really, both lost: Sharron Angle & Joe Miller.
7) I'm a little bummed that the huge margin of victory in the House obscures the fact that the Tea Party likely cost the GOP the Senate -- certainly O'Donnell in DE, likely Angle in NV, and Buck, if he counts as a Tea Partier, in CO. Circular firing squads are always fun to watch.
8) Assuming that Murkowski wins in Alaska, does she pull a Lieberman and occasionally find ways to piss off her former party? Remember, the GOP stripped her of her committee chair when she decided to run as a write-in candidate (which the Dems did NOT do with Lieberman, he got to keep his seniority status). This is likely wishful thinking on my part, but might she start joining in a bit more with Snowe, Collins, and, newly, Ayotte from NH in a female-kinda-centrist-faction of Republicans? Worth keeping an eye on, at least.
9) Marco Rubio is being talked about as the Next Big Thing in the GOP. I started to write him off, but then realized that he could be an ideal VP pick. Would certainly help in Florida, and probably New Mexico too.
10) So now the race for 2012 begins. Seems like, every time around, some politician tries to skip the process of spending long, cold nights kissing the asses of voters in Iowa and/or New Hampshire. And every time, pundits wonder if this will be the candidate who can pull that off, if this candidate is just so popular or national or whatever that it won't matter. And that candidate never wins. Personally, I do not want Sarah Palin to run for president, because if she runs for president, there's a non-zero chance, however low, that she actually becomes president. But man, I would love to see her talk to some cranky old farts in New Hampshire who wouldn't put up with her vapid responses.