As of this writing, Democrats won the House but not the Senate. They picked up around 30 seats but failed to overturn Deborah Pryce. Pryce, the fourth-highest Republican, was targeted for attacks by MoveOn.org starting in early Summer. A moderate with a clean voting record, the worst thing that the Democrats cae up with for months was that she voted to give herself cost of living raises.
This race was particularly galling to me since I live in Pryce's district. Pryce is a true moderate, one I often have wished that I could exchange for a real conservative. Her opponent, Mary Jo Kilroy, has never been impressive, even when she headed the local school board. Had Kilroy taken Pryce's seat it would have had more to do with the amount of money brought into the election than anything else.
Mike DeWine, another moderate, didn't do as well. Between campaign mistakes and a general disgust with Republicans by Ohio voters, DeWine lost hit seat. DeWine may take the seat back in six years. He lost his first Senate run before winning a seat. He may stage a comeback.
In the meantime, what can we make of the Democrat's win? Not a whole lot. They won because they were not Republicans. They did not push a coherent plan for the country. With only a slim majority they will not be up to major legislation. They will probably try to pass some symbolic laws that will never make it through the Senate. They have no position on Iraq and there is very little that they can do to try to force policy.
This will never satisfy the hard-core left. These are the ones who voted for Nader because Clinton was too conservative. Many of them expect action. They want national health care, surrender in Iraq, and Bush's head on a platter.
What will happen two years from now when they don't perceive that any of their goals have been accomplished? Will they try further purges like the one with Leiberman? Will they replace Pilosi with Murtha?
This equation will change a bit if the Democrats take the Senate after all. The left will want even more but they will still be unable to deliver.
This may drive the Democrats to nominate an unelectable candidate - someone acceptable to the far left but too liberal for the general electorate.
One thing that the election does not signal is a general swing to the left by the entire country. Exit polls show that voters were rejecting Republican corruption, not their policies. This is not the lesson that the Democrats will hear. They tried to frame this as yet another vote on Bush. That isn't what the exit polls say and the 30 seats that they picked up were pretty anemic against a president in his 6th year.