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Editorial: What we all can take away from Election Day

Ballots have been cast, speeches have been made, and yes, the negative campaigning has given way to a palpable, though likely temporary, spirit of cooperation.

But what does it all mean, and what were the lessons to be learned as some celebrate their victory while others tend to their wounds? The day after the election, the nation, the state and our local electorate are still trying to make sense of how Tuesday’s results will impact our economy and the political parties themselves. Here are some observations and some thoughts on how this election will influence state and national politics going forward.

The danger of overextension

In the 2010 midterm elections, the Republican Party, largely riding the smaller-government fervor of the Tea Party, routed the Democrats from Washington to Concord. The sentiment was mostly the same. At the federal and state levels, Democrats held control of the legislative and executive offices. But they were seen as pushing their agenda too hard, moving too fast and without enough involvement from the minority party. So when Republicans became the majority in both chambers in Concord and of the House in Washington, many wondered if they would learn the lessons of overextension.

But they didn’t. Republican leaders pushed an all-cuts-no-revenue philosophy that didn’t resonate with a majority of voters. They fell into many of the same pitfalls that have trapped majority parties in the past. They stopped working for all their constituents and they became guided solely by their base. So now, two years later, state Republicans have lost control of the House and they hold a slim majority in the Senate. And they hold a smaller and much less influential advantage in the U.S. House. They also missed their chance to capture the Senate. This likely would have happened with more moderate voices leading the party. Instead, they squandered their two years in power by favoring obstruction over solutions. It’ll be interesting to see if the surviving Republican legislatures in Concord and Washington heard the message from moderates.

Tea Party influence

Many are debating what these elections mean for the future of the Tea Party, and it’s still too early to tell whether they will remain a fractured movement or a coordinated body. But this much is for sure: They set the national fiscal agenda over the past two years, and the points they have been making will continue to hold sway regardless of whether they have as many backers in elected office.

There are huge obstacles facing this country and to a smaller extent this state. There are clear needs to realign our spending with our revenues — and to keep it that way, especially in good times. And there is a political minefield ahead as we determine how we cut spending and how we raise revenue, all in the face of expiring tax cuts and a renewed debt ceiling debate. But it’s going to take a healthy amount of discussion, an honest approach to negotiations and a serious amount of compromise to get us there. Americans and Granite Staters understand the risks ahead of a mounting debt. We believe they’ll largely support the sacrifices that are needed — namely cuts and new taxes — but only as long as it feels like the sacrifice is shared. The question is, will the Tea Party backers, especially those beholden to the Grover Norquist pledge to fight any tax increase of any kind, be willing to strike a compromise?

Role of women

Women voters overwhelming supported Democratic candidates this time around, and it’ll be interesting to see how New Hampshire Republicans shift their agenda to recapture this critical bloc of voters. In New Hampshire, according to CNN polling, Romney edged Obama among men, 51 percent to 48 percent. But women voters favored Obama 58 to 42, an astounding shift that will certainly push Republicans to reconsider their collective stance on key social issues like abortion and health care-related contraception.

In the governor’s race, Maggie Hassan barely edged Ovide Lamontagne among men, 49-48. But again, women made the difference by favoring Hassan 60-38. In all cases, Democrats gained their advantage among women in two age groups: those ages 18 to 29, and those age 65 and older.

Aside from the pivotal role women played in 2012, it’s also worth mentioning the historic nature of this election. New Hampshire is now the first state in the nation represented in Washington solely by women. Senators Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen are now joined by Representatives Ann Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter. Hassan, who is now the nation’s lone female Democratic governor, added to the noticeable shift.

We’re still divided

The Electoral College numbers said landslide. The popular vote indicated otherwise. And before Democrats feel like they have a mandate, legislators should be careful to note that Republicans still hold many political cards here and in Washington.

In Concord, Republicans will still set much of the agenda, but they’ll do so with less confidence that state voters are with them. This may rein in some of the push toward conservative social causes that many felt strayed from the “fix the economy” mandate with which they entered office. And in Washington, the House could still play the role of spoiler. But without a presidential election driving the strategy, we assume the legislature will be more likely to compromise.

So maybe this would be a good opportunity for the folks guiding policy in Washington and Concord to get the message voters seemed to send Tuesday. And that’s, “Let’s make a deal.”

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