Amid big Republican gains, House gets more polarized

Moderate and conservative Democrats were hit particularly hard on election night, despite the fact that many opposed Obama administration initiatives.

Mark Moran/AP
U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski gives his concession speech, with his wife Nancy, in Moosic, Pa., on Tuesday. He is one of a handful of long-serving moderate Democrats who lost their seats Tuesday.

It’s been a bad night for Democrats in the House, where Republicans are poised to pick up between 60 and 75 seats – the biggest gain by any one party in an election since 1948.

But in particular, it’s been a bad night for moderate and conservative Democrats, who saw their ranks in Congress decimated in race after race.

Longtime, once-impervious incumbents fell: John Spratt in South Carolina. Ike Skelton in Missouri. Paul Kanjorski in Pennsylvania. Rich Boucher in Virginia.

In many cases, those Democrats lost despite amassing relatively conservative voting records and opposing key Obama Administration initiatives.

At the same time, it was a banner night for many conservative, tea-party-anointed Republican candidates.

The result: Even more polarization in an already polarized House.

“The Democratic caucus in the House is going to be much more liberal,” Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, told Fox News. “The moderates, the Blue Dogs, were slaughtered.”

In dozens of races, those Blue Dog Democrats found that even being an independent voice couldn’t protect them against an anti-Democrat wave in the more conservative districts they represented.

Gone: Chet Edwards in Texas, Baron Hill in Indiana, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin in South Dakota, Charlie Wilson in Ohio, and many others.

A few survived, barely. Sanford Bishop, in Georgia’s Second District, squeaked by, as did Joe Donnelly in Indiana’s Second.

But even as Obama is expected to call for more bipartisan cooperation in his address Wednesday, House members can look forward to a membership that has lost its most moderate voices and shifted to the two extremes in both parties.

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