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The sobering message for Obama

By David Gergen, CNN Senior Political Analyst
updated 3:13 PM EST, Wed November 5, 2014
  • David Gergen: President has to find shrinking Democratic ranks in Congress sobering
  • Gergen says Republicans were smart in their choice of more moderate candidates this year
  • At least 100 women will serve in Congress, a threefold increase over 25 years
  • Gergen: Here comes another generation of the Bush family in public office

Editor's note: David Gergen is a senior political analyst for CNN and has been an adviser to four presidents. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he is a professor of public service and director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Follow him on Twitter: @david_gergen. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN) -- Almost everything that can be said about Tuesday night's elections has been said, so with some trepidation, a few afterthoughts:

• The verdicts in the 2014 midterm races make it clear that President Barack Obama cannot simply blame Democratic losses on a bad map, as he did Tuesday. (The President passed off the elections as taking place in states least favorable for Democrats "since Eisenhower.")

David Gergen
David Gergen

It should be sobering for the White House that when Obama took office, Democrats had 59 senators and 256 House members; after Tuesday night, they will likely have 45-47 senators and some 190 House members. That is one of the biggest slides in congressional seats of any modern president. Surely, his White House has to take serious responsibility -- and look for ways to leave a better legacy.

• This was an unexpectedly big night for the GOP: Predictions for Republicans were already high, but they blew the doors off. Who could have imagined Republicans winning the governorships of Maryland and Massachusetts, winning Senate seats in Obama states such as Colorado and Iowa, and assembling their biggest coalition in the House of Representatives since the 1940s.

Is this a short-term GOP win?
Democrats lose Congress under Obama
Begala: GOP ran better candidates
Sen. John McCain is expected to become the next chairman of the Armed Services Committee. McCain is a vocal critic of President Obama for being too soft on foreign policy. If he assumes the position, he will likely push for ground troops in Syria and Iraq in an effort to defeat ISIS. Sen. John McCain is expected to become the next chairman of the Armed Services Committee. McCain is a vocal critic of President Obama for being too soft on foreign policy. If he assumes the position, he will likely push for ground troops in Syria and Iraq in an effort to defeat ISIS.
Sen. John McCain
The new GOP power players The new GOP power players

Conservatives will likely disagree, but one takeaway for Republicans is that they were well served this year by recruiting conservatives whom voters saw as less hard right than the tea party. Look at Cory Gardner of Colorado: The GOP establishment intentionally promoted him as an alternative in Colorado who -- unlike Ken Buck, a tea partyer who lost a few years ago (but won the conservative 4th Congressional District this year) -- would appeal to moderates as well as conservatives. Even The Denver Post endorsed him -- just as The Boston Globe endorsed Republican Charlie Baker, who wrested the Massachusetts State House from Democrats.

• A bright spot from Tuesday night that needs more attention: The Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University reports Americans will now have at least 100 women in Congress -- a three-fold increase over 25 years. Women such as Joni Ernst, Shelley Moore Capito and Jeanne Shaheen also won pivotal Senate races. Past experience says that the more women leaders in Congress, the more likely the two sides will find common ground.

• Tuesday night also witnessed the election of a fourth generation of the Bush family elected to public office. George P. Bush, the son of Jeb, won statewide office in Texas as land commissioner. His great-grandfather was Prescott Bush, a U.S. senator (and almost Ike's vice presidential running mate); his grandfather was President George H.W. Bush; his father was governor of Florida and his uncle was President. Will his dad now declare his own candidacy for the presidency? Tuesday night's results probably make it more likely.

• For this observer, this election night was especially sweet because of the breakthrough victory by a young man I have known and supported for 15 years: Seth Moulton, a Democrat who swept to a double-digit victory as a new congressman from the North Shore of Massachusetts. Seth has three degrees from Harvard and four tours in Iraq as a Marine infantry officer. More than that, he is a model among a rising generation of leaders who I believe can transform our politics. I wrote about him and others of his generation in a recent column on Congratulations, Seth!

(Note: An earlier version of this article said there will be at least 100 women in the House; that number applies to the entire Congress.)

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