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This seemed a worthwhile lead in to a piece on the Berlin wall, since the Biblical account of the fall of Jericho and the archeological version of events seem to have some significant points of difference – including the archeological evidence that the events of the Jewish captivity and subsequent Exodus from Egypt never took place.

Twenty-five years ago tomorrow, November 9th, the Berlin wall came tumbling down.

That is, more or less — mostly less.

Badly educated conservative Americans, at least some of them, have bought into the revisionist history/propaganda and mistakenly give credit for this event to Ronnie Ray-gun.
They might as well give the credit to Ronald McDonald.

The reality of the Reagan speech is very different than the myth. The Guardian newspaper in the UK does an excellent job of urban myth-busting:

From Reagan to Hasselhoff: 5 people who didn’t bring down the Berlin Wall From Ronald Reagan’s ‘tear down this wall’ speech to David Hasselhoff’s bizarre ‘looking for freedom’ serenade, countless urban myths have sprung up about who was really responsible for the fall of the wall. Do any have any merit? “…One popular theory says that while the collapse of the iron curtain may have looked inevitable, it took the intervention of some great minds to provide the crucial nudge. Never mind Polish trade unionists, Soviet politicians or East German dissidents, it was British and American politicians and popstars who made all the crucial interventions, right? 1) Ronald Reagan The words went down in history: “Mr Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” And lo and behold: soon after the US president Ronald Reagan had voiced his bold demand to the Soviet president in front of the Berlin wall, the borders opened. As John Heubusch, executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library, has put it: “One cannot ignore how [Reagan’s] powerful conviction ended the cold war by firing a verbal salvo, an oratorical demand to let freedom prevail.” But one also shouldn’t ignore that Reagan gave his speech on 12 June 1987, a good 29 months before the actual fall of the wall. And there is little evidence that it had much impact on the dynamics of the dissident movement in East Germany, or on Soviet politics at the time. Some 45,000 Berliners witnessed Reagan’s wall speech, compared to the 450,000 people who attended John F Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in 1963 – in other western parts of the city, there were demonstrations against the US president’s visit. Coverage of the event was only published in the back pages of the major international papers. German weekly Die Zeit did not even quote his request to Gorbachev.

Reagan had made similar speeches before, in 1982 and 1986. The only new element was him addressing Gorbachev directly. Reagan had been losing support domestically, so this show of strength may above all have been directed at an American audience. In that respect, it undoubtedly did the job.

It is unlikely that Gorbachev ever knew of the challenge Reagan nominally directed at him, in a blatant display of American-oriented political theater, or that he would have cared if he did.

Also, NO, the wall really didn’t come down on November 9 1989; more on that in the Chicago Tribune piece below.
Gorbachev, NOT Reagan, was quite properly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990, for his courageous actions in the USSR/Russia and Europe.

Kudos to the Chicago Tribune for consolidating some of the myths about the Berlin Wall, and then busting them. The entire piece deserves a widespread read.


But to specifically address the part about Reagan :

Many Americans believe that Ronald Reagan’s June 1987 speech in Berlin (“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”) led to the wall’s fall in 1989. However, Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms in the Soviet bloc were far more important than Reagan’s speech, as were the actions of the East Germans themselves. When the wall started to fall on Nov. 9, it was a mistake. In the face of mass protests against the regime in 1989 and thousands of East Germans seeking refuge at West German embassies in Eastern Europe, East German leaders waived the old visa rules stating that citizens needed a pressing reason for travel, such as a funeral or wedding of a family member. East Germans would still have to apply for visas to leave the country, but they would supposedly be granted quickly and without any requirements. Yet the Communist Party official who announced these changes, Guenter missed most of the key meeting about the travel procedures and went unprepared to a news conference on Nov. 9. In response to reporters’ questions about when the new law would take effect, he said, “Immediately, without delay.” Schabowski left the impression that people could immediately cross the border, though he meant to say they could apply for visas in an orderly manner. Over the next several hours, thousands of East Berliners gathered at checkpoints along the wall. Since the country’s leaders hadn’t intended to completely open the border, the supervisors at the crossing points had received no new orders. The chief officer on duty at the Bornholmer Street checkpoint, Harald Jaeger, kept calling his superiors for guidance on how to handle the growing mass of increasingly angry East Berliners expecting to be let through. Jaeger finally gave up around 11:30 p.m. and allowed people to pass through en masse. Guards at other crossing points soon followed suit. The East German regime never fully regained control.

Don’t expect the correct version of events to appear in any Tea Party school board dominated history books; they call it being un-American if you tell the truth.

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Minnesota House GOP elects leadership

by Dan Burns on November 8, 2014 · 1 comment

In honor of Rep. Kurt Daudt’s (R-Crown) ascension as Speaker of the Minnesota House, I’m bringing back this classic from the archives of another Minnesota blogger, about the incident in Montana where Daudt’s pal waved a gun around. It includes information on Daudt’s driving record, which is indicative of a reckless, impatient personal psychology. We’ll see to what extent that manifests as he wields his newfound power.

Not exactly the same version as Daudt’s office’s press release – all guilt on the Montana side, me and Dan worried, “feeling imminently threatened, my friend retrieved a handgun, without my knowledge, from my vehicle,” leaving hanging such facts as how did Weinzetl know Daudt’s firearm was in Daudt’s Lexus and where to find it there, and what Weinzetl did after returning with Daudt’s weapon in hand. Minor detail? However, the affidavit’s “… pointed a gun at them and their children and had then taken off” is inconsistent with “… Brock accelerated away from the situation … leaving the two males behind.”
(Developers Are Crabgrass)

Is he signifying, at this press conference?

The new House Majority Leader is Rep. Joyce Peppin (R-Rogers). She’s actually of the party’s (relatively) sane wing, and as a suburban woman is supposed to be just the sort to bring the party back to prominence in the longer term. Note that despite the hideous voter turnout the GOP was only able to flip one suburban seat.
Image from this Pioneer Press article.

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Pointergate: KSTP does it again

by Eric Ferguson on November 7, 2014 · 3 comments

Dan Burns posted earlier about “pointergate”, where KSTP TV thought it a scandal that the mayor of Minneapolis and someone else were pointing at each other. Apparently the standards of journalism at KSTP TV have not improved since they passed along Brian Rice’s false claims of voter fraud without investigation. This raises an important question: there are still people who watch local TV news? Maybe there aren’t many left, thus why KSTP TV does these sensationalistic stories.

A more serious question: aren’t real journalists embarrassed to work for this organization? At least now I know why my Twitter app alerted me that some people had followed Jay Kolls, the reporter whose name is on the story (this is the original story). Unfortunately, I suspect the people who followed him gave him what he wanted. To be fair though, the reporter on camera might not deserve all the blame, since I don’t know who else worked on the story. Maybe he was left hanging, or maybe he is the one who really screwed up. Can’t tell; just like the voter fraud story. That’s why it’s damaging to the whole news division to make a pattern of grabbing some unproven charge and running with it; acting like someone making a claim is news, and no matter if it isn’t proven, or even if it’s dumb. Pointing is a gang sign? A bunch of people having a mailbox rental store as an address is voter fraud? Does anyone at KSTP think about this stuff before going on the air?


Hubbard News being humiliated over Pointergate

by Dan Burns on November 7, 2014 · 4 comments

That would be “5 Eyewitness News” here in the Minnesota metro. It’s owned by the state’s top Republican financier, Stan Hubbard. You have to read the whole article, for all of the context.

What you are about to read and watch is stranger than fiction. It’s so racist and so outrageous, that people are questioning whether or not it’s satire from The Onion. It’s real though, and that’s what is so shocking and heartbreaking about the whole ordeal…
Sadly, only racism allows such an ugly story and stereotype to be advanced about a young man who was clearly not flashing a gang sign with the mayor of Minneapolis. He deserves a public apology and heads should roll at this station for even allowing it to ever make it to the air.
Furthermore, some real investigative journalism needs to uncover just why the police were willing to get behind such a phony story. Something smells off in a major way. Could it be because the mayor is behind the police wearing body cameras and the police faked this story hours before the pilot program was due to launch? Or could it be that she called out police corruption and vowed to clean it up last month?
(Daily Kos)

Stan Hubbard and his wretched minions are getting their comeuppance, in a way, through a whole lot of “tweets.” For example, apparently Jeff Johnson is not yet completely irrelevant.
Again, you have to click and read the whole thing. Unreal.
Comments below fold.


Post-election observations

by Eric Ferguson on November 6, 2014 · 5 comments

With the voting done in 2014, let’s talk about 2016. Kidding! Stop, don’t go away! In fact, I’ll give you this handy link to Minnesota election results, but don’t leave yet.
The following thoughts about 2014 are more or less in the order in which they came to mind, though I tried to seize opportunities for coherency.
Starting with admittedly a repeat of my comment on Dan Burns’ post on women voting, assuming my walk lists of voters were the drop-off Democrats, it’s a bit disturbing those lists were heavy with younger women, meaning under 40. They arguably lost the most when Republicans did so well in 2010, between Republican governors and legislatures repealing equal pay laws, closing women’s clinics to restrict abortion access (and restricting access to health services in general thereby), photo ID laws (women’s birth certificates get rejected if they changed their names when they married), and blocking minimum wage increases which hurts women much more than men. Why aren’t younger women the most motivated to turn out?
Despite the wailing and media hysteria, if you didn’t roughly predict the results of the 2014 midterms once the results of the 2012 election were in, you have much to learn about US politics. We’re the presidential party in a midterm — Tuesday was always going to be bad. I expected we would net a governor or two, instead of a net loss of I think it will turn out to be two. But losses in Congress, albeit worse than they needed to be, no surprise. Looks like losses were small compared to 2010 in state legislatures. Not that we couldn’t have mitigated the losses without some bad decisions — yes, that’s a prelude to bringing up things I’m ticked about, and in my own defense, all things I raised before the campaign was over. We’ll get there shortly. Some good news, besides a good night for Democrats in Minnesota whatever happened elsewhere, is the GOP Senate majority is likely short-lived. Their odds of holding on in 2016 are worse than ours this year, for the same math problems: whether it’s a presidential year, who defends how many seats, and which states have elections.
Weirdly, given how the elections turned out, Democrats nearly ran the table on ballot measures. Unlike 2012, they seem not to have had coattails.
No one wants to believe the polls when they predict bad news, but for Senate and governor races, following them meant you weren’t surprised. Disappointed, but at least you knew it would be a generally bad night. Not so much for the US House, which I attribute to few polls and small sample sizes — so I was pleasantly surprised by CD8, since the last poll showed Stewart Mills with a strong lead, plus a Green candidate taking a few percent. Point being, better to accept the polls are roughly right and deal with reality. At least no one on the Democratic side went so far as to get into “unskewing”, so we have that going for us.
Apartment buildings folks, come on. I’m not naming sources or candidates, because no one knew in these conversations I might be blogging about it later on. Trying to do better at contacting people who live in apartments, or “multi-unit buildings” to not exclude residents of condominiums, is something we’ve worked on in the SD I chair, and the Keith Ellison campaign developed methods of doorknocking in apartments over the last couple elections. Ellison is safe, so the main beneficiaries are on the rest of the ballot, but lots of candidates and campaigns still want to bypass multi-unit buildings. The reasons why aren’t important. What’s important is we’re passing up voters Republicans also don’t contact, or, to be more positive, where we focus on multi-unit buildings, we’re contacting people Republicans ignore. Besides, whatever fudge factors there are, can anyone claim we solved the drop-off Democrat problem? Yet turfs are still cut to steer away from multi-unit buildings.


The Unforgiven Sins of Bill Maher

by Invenium Viam on November 6, 2014 · 1 comment

jesus-KornKing“There is no worse enemy of God and Man than zeal armed with power and guided by a feeble intellect.” ~ William James


Over the last several weeks, social critic/comedian Bill Maher has found himself in conflict with various groups of people for espousing some unpopular views regarding Islam. He recently stated on his television show Real Time with Bill Maher, for example, that “Islam is the only religion that acts like the Mafia and will f**king kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture, or write the wrong book.”


He is, of course, referring to various acts of murder and violent reprisal by Muslims against Western writers, artists and authors, including fellow Muslims, for perceived offenses and crimes against their religion or their prophet.


Recently, Maher managed to brook the ire of the U.C. Berkeley student body, who find his opinions so unforgivably offensive that they protested his invitation from the university regents to deliver a commencement address in December, demanding that the invitation be withdrawn.


Maher’s first offensive political view seems to be an assertion that there is something inherent in the Islamic religion that gives rise to institutional, organized violence by some of its adherents towards others including both non-Muslims and other Muslims. His second offensive political view seems to be an assertion that Islam is antagonistic towards, and/or its teachings antithetical to, the personal freedoms we take for granted in the West, which puts Islam in direct conflict with Western values.


In that light, Maher has been lately admonishing liberals to publicly uphold ‘liberal’ values. “Liberals,” Maher said, “need to stand up for liberal principles. Freedom of speech. Freedom to practice any religion you want without fear of violence. Freedom to leave a religion. Equality for women. Equality for minorities including homosexuals …”.


Maher may be right about his assertions … or he may be wrong. That is for you to decide. But the more important, underlying, question of the moment is not whether he is right or wrong, but whether he has a right to voice his opinions in the arena of public discourse regardless of how unpopular they may be in some quarters. He is not wrong in simply asking the question whether there is something inherent in Islam that leads to institutional, organized violence by some of its adherents. Nor is he wrong in suggesting that that inherent something — if it exists — would put Islam in direct cultural conflict with Western values.


Whether Maher is right or wrong, he has posed assertions worthy of examination. That others see in them evidence of bigotry, and in their zeal move to suppress both him and them, only lends weight to his arguments. First, if there is nothing in the practices and teachings of Islam that can give credence to his assertions, why is the reaction by Muslims and others to damn him for bigotry quite so immediate and strident? Why not simply answer those assertions with calm, deliberative argument? Secondly, doesn’t the zeal for suppression by Muslims itself evidence a conflict with Western values?


Unsettling, even disturbing, questions often challenge us to rational examination through open-ended inquiry, which leads to a newer, better understanding of the world around us and our place within it. Accordingly, in Western culture, we have learned over time to allow all to speak their opinions freely and to uphold the rational over the dogmatic in sorting out truths from falsehood. We see evidence every day that some sects or groups within Islam have not yet learned how to do this, and tend to uphold the dogmatic over the rational even to the point of violence and murder. However, in my view, that failing on the part of some does not make it inherent to the whole of Islam. Furthermore, we see the same failing within groups in Western culture: Flat-earthers, Creationists, White Supremacists, and the Berkeley student body. Does their predilection for the dogmatic over the rational prove a broadly inherent failing of Western culture? It does not.


What is dead-certain in any society’s bifurcated search for truth, as conducted by those whose predilections run to the rational versus those who uphold the dogmatic, is that the dogmatists will always first attempt to suppress the rationalists. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s Neo-Nazi’s, Christian Fundamentalists, 15th-century Spanish Jesuits, modern-day Sunni Salafists, or a student body living in a distorted world seen through the coke-bottle lenses of political correctness — the reaction by the dogmatists to suppress is as predictable as the sunrise. The reason is quite simple: the revealed truths of rational, open-ended inquiry always poses an existential threat to the convenient, comfortable, received truths of dogma.


More Below the Fold

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Minnesota winter1I wrote this for DailyKOS, where you can also comment and recommend it. I write this because I really do think we in Minnesota have come up with better campaign strategies.


If you look at Yougov survey of state rankings, then you will see that Minnesota is ranked 18th in scoring on progressive issues. Minnesota was behind Wisconsin and Michigan. Yet Minnesota is doing better in elections. Why? While even Minnesota can improve what we do, I do think that we have significant differences from national trends in campaigning.

Proud to be a Democrat, Proud of Democratic Leadership and Proud of Democratic Policies


When Democrats are proud to be Democrats and proud of Democratic policies, then we win. Minnesota did lose significant house seats in rural house districts where there is less spoken in that strong kind of pride. Minnesota was especially strong on comparing itself favorably to Wisconsin, where Minnesota’s choice of Democratic policy and leadership has really helped the Minnesota economy. Duh, Obama is one of our greatest speakers. How did we ever get talked into not using him? On every poll, Democratic policies score higher, why wouldn’t one run on winning numbers?


People Power vs Money Power


Doorknocking is the key to success. Whenever possible the Minnesota Democrats hit every door in highly-Democratic, high-turnover districts. Minnesota held key seats in areas where that strategy was used. In rural areas, getting to every door is not easily done, so this strategy cannot be used there. The money power is getting scary high with state races now going to a million dollars with outsider money. Yet 20 dedicated people doorknocking every weekend can hold against the money. We say thank you to our dedicated people often, they are the heroes of our party.

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MN-08: About the election

by Dan Burns on November 6, 2014 · 3 comments

nolanI grant that it was close. Uncomfortably – indeed, distressingly – so, though the (entirely legitimate) presence of a Green Party candidate was partly the reason for that. Distressing that so many are still politically foolish and gullible enough to have fallen for Stewart Mills III’s repugnant, failed plutocratic drivel. Turnout was 68.5% of registered voters (not of all eligible voters) in this race, compared to 63% for governor (those numbers are based on registered voter totals on the linked pages, and don’t include at-the-polls signups). So, not awful, but far from great, by Minnesota standards. (Update: It turns out that total turnout was awful, at 50.31% of eligible voters statewide. Which partly explains the closeness of this race, too.)


I’m obviously very relieved that we won’t have to put up with Minnesota’s corporate media deifying Mills as the Unstoppable Future of the Republican Party. And you know that they were pumped with eagerness, to do that. Probably not the reporters themselves, for the most part, but those who tell them what to write.
Contrary to what some concern trolls claimed, taking particular note of Mills’s unearned privilege worked. Probably made the difference. Well, that, and The Hair. I saw somewhere that Nolan has the most progressive voting record overall of any Democrat who faced a really tough challenge. I’m not sure about that – I haven’t seen the data, myself – but it’s likely at least close to accurate, and makes his win something to feel all that much better about.


This seat probably won’t have to be worried about much in 2016, even if Rep. Nolan hands it off, but the longer term remains to be seen. Tuesday’s result, given the overall climate, shows that the district is blue, but not dark blue. (And that any candidate who is perceived as not red-hot enough for sulfide mining is not automatically doomed. I’ll write more about that. A lot of people will.) Demographic movement (as in greater diversity and better-educated) will push things left, but that’s a slow process.
Comments below fold.


Harry Potter and the 2014 Election

by gregladen on November 5, 2014 · 2 comments

Separated at birth? Maybe not. But still ...

Separated at birth? Maybe not. But still …

Harry Potter and the 2014 Election

The Potter Metaphor


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s stone is the first in a series of books that are metaphorical of the central theme of politics and society in the Western world. Voldemort represents purity of race and racism, the good Witches and Wizards of Hogwarts represent the struggle of self aware consensus around the idea of fairness. The key protagonists — Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley, together with a few others — succeed because of the diversity in ability they collectively represent.


One of the key moments in J. K. Rowling’s book is the solution of the potions challenge on the way to the hidden room containing the Sorcerer’s stone. There are several challenges and problems, and each one is met by a different protagonist. Harry has the ability to make Hagrid reveal his poorly kept secrets, so among other things the three students find out how to control Fuffy, the giant three-headed hound. He is also a skilled Seeker, and can thus grab the flying key. Hermione is the one that notices the trap door. Ron for all his failings is a master at Wizard Chess. The theme here is obvious. The three students often fail to understand each other and often do not see eye to eye, but by combining their different strengths and working together, they accomplish what no individual Witch or Wizard could do. The part about the potions challenge is a notably extreme case of this.


Voldemort and his death eaters, and the Slytherin such as Draco Malfoy and his father, as well as Snape, resent the half breeds and muggle-born. They wish to see those who are not pure removed from their society, by any means. The historical fact that Voldemort himself is a halfbreed, a thinly veiled reference to Hitler’s Jewish connections, is beside the point. But it is the muggle-born Hermione who solves the potions puzzle using a Muggle capacity rarely found in Wizards. Wizards, we are told by Rowling, have magical minds, not logical minds. Among the Muggles we find those like Hermione, who probably spent hours with brain teaser books as an eight year old, who are capable of solving complex logical problems, problems that seem impossible but in fact have only one solution. When Hermione and Harry reach the potions challenge, where drinking all of the liquids but one will cause a horrible outcome, but that one potion will open the next door, her Muggle mind comes into play. Harry does not understand how Hermione has solved the problem, but he trusts her with his life.


It is very unfortunate that this scene was left out of the movie version of the story, even though it is alluded to after the fact. As far as I can tell, the scene was never shot (correct me if I am wrong). To me, this is a key message in Rowling’s book. The fact that it was not transferred into the movie version, and that commentary on the book vs. movie differences tend note it but do not lament it, is a bit disappointing.



2014 election results liveblog

by Dan Burns on November 4, 2014 · 5 comments

537AM: Rep. Rick Nolan has won in MN-08. But the GOP has gained control of the Minnesota House, it looks like by two or three seats. It was mostly rural seats that flipped.
1108: MN-07 has been called for Rep. Peterson. MN-08 and the state House both look promising, as far as I can tell, but I’m not waiting up for a couple more hours to be sure. Thank you to everyone who stopped by.
1037: John Kline is up by 20%, with 60% reporting. Insane. It’s almost as if Flip a District did more harm than good.
1029: The MN-08 race is tight – Rep. Rick Nolan is up by about 2%, with about 1/3 reporting – and Collin has a double-digit lead in MN-07 with half reporting.
1024: The GOP will probably win the Senate race in North Carolina (putting us at 46 barring a miracle in Alaska and/or the Louisiana runoff), and Rick Snyder has been reelected in Michigan.
1017: Rebecca Gagnon and, yes, Don Samuels have won the citywide Minneapolis school board seats.
1014: It’s been called for Governor Dayton!
1004: In the MN House, Yvonne Selcer has held 48A. I provided the link partly because I doubt I’ll stay up late enough to see the House totals through.
953: Scott Walker has won in Wisconsin. It’s entirely possible that the only Tea Party governor who’ll get booted was Pennsylvania. Maybe Kansas. Well, Minnesota had to suffer through two terms of Pawlenty to get its act together.
948: With about 35% in statewide Governor Dayton’s up by about 12 points, Steve Simon by 8 for SoS, and the other executive races are blowouts.
941: We’ve lost the Senate seat in Iowa, too. And Georgia has stayed GOP. Hopefully we won’t end any worse than 47.
928: Bad stuff. The GOP has won the Senate seat in Colorado, and Rick Scott has been reelected Florida governor. Apparently, South Florida did not come through, with turnout. Here in Minnesota, all of our incumbents are ahead, though in most cases with less than 20% reporting.
916: With 86/127 reporting the race for two citywide school board seats in Minneapolis, Rebecca Gagnon has 33.5%, Don Samuels 28.6%, Iris Altamirano 25.5%, Ira Jourdain 12.4%.
912: I’m sorry to have to report that incumbent Rich Stanek is winning huge in the Hennepin County sheriff’s race.
859: Two entries below, I spoke too soon. The AP has called Minnesota for Sen. Al Franken. Hear the anguished howling of Al-hating wingnuts? Sweet, ain’t it? Now, we’ll see about coattails.
855: From DKos:

No surprise: The AP is calling a runoff in LA-Sen. That happened once before in 2002, and Democrat Mary Landrieu pulled off a miracle victory that year. Can she do so again? Looking a lot harder this time.

850: In Minnesota, once we get up to around 30% of precincts reporting, I’ll start doing the same. We’re nowhere near that, yet.
820: I may as well put this out there. Remember how last year the Virginia governor’s race was far tighter than the polls indicated? The same thing is happening, right now, with the Senate race there, and losing it would be brutal. If we end with anything less than 46 Senate seats, there’s no guarantee we’ll take it back in 2016.
800: Senate races in general are going per the form book, which isn’t great, but the ones that will determine have yet to significantly manifest. We’ve won New Hampshire, lost Arkansas.
720: In general, when I have multiple things to note, I’ll start at the bottom and work my way up. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) has a cold, dark soul, and he has won reelection. Pennsylvania has replaced its Tea Party governor, Tom Corbett. Don’t take this too seriously: there are indications that Dems are outperforming polling aggregates in more races than not.
I’ve put the previous body of this below the fold, and below the comments.