The consensus emerging from Tuesday's primaries is that there's no real consensus.
Newsweek's Jonathan Alter called it for women: ''With only six women governors, 16 women senators, and 74 women in the House, female candidates are fresher for voters looking for change.'' TIME's Jay Newton-Small says pragmatism won: ''If Washington wasn't quite the winner tonight, the big loser certainly was ideological purity.''
California Republicans chose Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina as their candidates for governor and U.S. Senate. It's a gender milestone of sorts, but not really—the Golden State already has two sitting women senators.
Incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln used strong backing from Bill Clinton to beat back an organized labor-financed primary challenge from Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, while Tea Party upstart and former Nevada state legislator Sharron Angle beat better-known State Sen. Sue Lowden for the right to take on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
No single trend in the 2010 election cycle is dominant. It's still too early for Republicans to feel secure about dramatically shifting the balance of power in Congress, and too early for entrenched Democrats to pack it in. Here's three things to watch for next:
Haley, only 38, has the most potential to flip the long-term political script—not just because she's a woman—but because she'd be the nation's second Indian-American governor. Like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Haley is a conservative Republican from the Deep South. Like Jindal—who converted from Hinduism to Catholicism—Haley was a Sikh who's now Methodist. Unlike Jindal, Haley got a timely endorsement from Sarah Palin, and is, according to the Washington Post's Kathleen Parker, a ''rising star'' in the GOP.
Socially conservative Fiorina, ousted as Hewlett-Packard's CEO in 2005, beat moderate former Congressman Tom Campbell for the Republican U.S. Senate slot. Now she'll face off against incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer in the fall. Fiorina's private sector cred was apparently part of her appeal, but she was shut down by Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign after saying "I don't think John McCain could run a major corporation."
The news in struggling California isn't just that women won the big primaries; it's that they're both former CEOs. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger bows out leaving an estimated budget deficit of $26 million. Whitman, like Schwarzenegger, is a political neophyte who spent a reported $80 million of her own money to convince voters that her success as eBay's CEO will mean practical fiscal stewardship for the nation's largest state.
In the fall, Whitman will be up against the man that Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Royko once dubbed "Gov. Moonbeam''—onetime Gov. Jerry Brown. But as the L.A. Times' George Skelton notes, Brown is no tax-and-spend liberal. He's a little more like the rejoinder to a Pat Buchanan-esque paleolibertarian. Conventional wisdom holds that he had more success as Oakland's mayor than as California's governor. But he'll no doubt remind general election voters that until Proposition 13 decimated California's coffers, through most of Brown's first tour as governor in the mid 1970s, the state carried a $5 billion surplus.
Fiorina may be right that it's "a fallcy to suggest that the country is like a company." But if she is, it begs the question: Why do she and Whitman feel sure that they can run California?
It's been a rough political year for Harry Reid. He started the year dealing with his widely reported ''Negro dialect'' remarks about President Barack Obama. Then as the leader of Congress' upper house, he cobbled together the votes to pass healthcare reform in the Senate—at great political cost to himself at a time when the new health care law is only favored by 48 percent of voters.
But now he can showcase the political skills that got him to the top Senate chair in the first place. It's probably not just luck that a small-town Mormon became the country's third most powerful Democrat, all while representing Sin City, U.S.A.
In a state with a large Latino population, Las Vegas' strong labor unions, and now a far-right GOP opponent in Angle, no one is counting Reid out just yet.
David Swerdlick is a regular contributor to The Root. Follow him on Twitter.
David Swerdlick is an associate editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.