Biggest winner: Haley Barbour. As head of the Republican Governors Association, he spearheaded an unprecedented election effort that raised tens of millions of dollars and gained at least eight seats. With fundraising and political contacts in every state, he is well positioned to test the waters for a 2012 presidential bid.
Biggest loser: In political terms, Nancy Pelosi. She could have pulled her caucus back from the electoral precipice many times, but instead chose to rally them “once more, unto the breach.” She may be proud of her policy accomplishments, but politically she is a dead parrot.
My hero: Paul Ryan. Paul did what no other conservative was willing to do: start to define the contours of a governing platform for a new majority. He’ll need many more to come on board, but necessity is the mother of invention, and the Republicans need a set of palatable yet aggressive ideas if they want to compete for leadership.
Most important lesson: Principle kills, and absolute principle kills absolutely. The Republicans would not have won such a majority had they not resisted the Beltway siren songs of bipartisanship; principle killed the Pelosi speakership. But conservatives who stood out for their unswerving, and often impolitic, devotion to principle, like Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, and Jesse Kelly in Arizona’s 8th district, showed that even in wave years independents are willing to follow conservatives only so far in one leap. Paul Ryan is an example of how you can be true to yourself and true to politics simultaneously.
Highest hopes for: A tie between Nikki Haley, Allen West, and Susana Martinez. Non-whites in America are rapidly growing as a share of the electorate, yet conservatives have trouble reaching these voters, who, as people desirous of moving up into the mainstream of American life, should be most supportive of a robust, free-enterprise system. Each person has the opportunity to prove him- or herself on the national stage and, if successful, can dispel many of the stereotypes about conservatives that hinder our support among non-white voters.
— Henry Olsen is vice president of the American Enterprise Institute and director of its National Research Initiative.
Who was the biggest winner of Election Day 2010? Sarah Louise Palin. She bestrode the political stage and backed winners in key primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.
Who was the biggest loser? Scott Rasmussen, whose automated polling will be under renewed fire from liberals. Oh, and Pres. Barack Obama, since the electoral shellacking compelled him to do a post-election press conference where he again displayed his mistaken belief that his troubles stem mostly from poor messaging and optics.
Who was your hero of the midterm election cycle? Candidates like Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Pat Toomey, who should all be persuasive voices for pro-growth economics and entitlement restructuring. Hopefully, there will be more awakened Democrats joining them.
What was the most important lesson? The 2008 financial crisis only momentarily turned Americans into Frenchmen. Two years later, they are more distrustful of government power than ever. It’s still a center-right nation, people.
Who do you have the highest hopes for? Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has tremendous natural political skills and real-world experience sorely lacking in Washington, D.C.
— James Pethokoukis is Money & Politics Columnist for Reuters Breakingviews.
James P. Pinkerton
Biggest winner: John Boehner.
Biggest loser: Nancy Pelosi.
Hero of the cycle: The tea partiers, as a group.
Unsung heroes: Pete Sessions, chairman of the NRCC, and Haley Barbour, chairman of the RGA.
Most important lesson: It’s a center-right country, so one can’t govern from the left.
Highest hopes for: Tim Scott, Allen West, two black Republicans in Congress; Nikki Haley and Susana Martinez, two new faces for the GOP.
— James P. Pinkerton, a former domestic-policy aide in the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, is a Fox News contributor.