For the first time ever, three Latino candidates -- all of them Republicans -- won top statewide offices. Despite these GOP wins, Latino voters supported Democrats by nearly a two-to-one margin.
In a year when support for Democratic candidates has eroded, the party's standing among Latinos appears as strong as ever. However, Hispanic voters appear to be less motivated than others to go to the polls.
For the third national election in a row, independent voters may be poised to vote out the party in power. Political independents now favor GOP candidates by about as large a margin as they backed Barack Obama in 2008. The "independent vote," however, is in no way monolithic; this is not surprising given that most independents are recent refugees from the two major parties.
While voter preferences for the midterm elections remain closely divided, Republicans now enjoy advantages among typically loyal voting blocs that wavered in 2006 and are doing better with key swing groups. Americans who intend to vote GOP this fall are also far more engaged in the campaign this year.
Across party lines, the public sees earmarking by their congressional candidates as more of an asset than a liability. Americans are divided on the value of Obama in November, while both Palin's support and Tea Party affiliation are seen by more as negative than positive. On energy, public backs a wide range of goals and policies.
In broad terms, voters view the Democratic Party's ideology as the opposite of the Republican Party's: 58% say the Democratic Party is either very liberal or liberal while 56% say the GOP is either very conservative or conservative.
The "Millennial Generation" of young voters played a big role in the resurgence of the Democratic Party in the 2006 and 2008 elections, but their attachment to the Democratic Party weakened markedly over the course of 2009.
The mood of America is glum. Most are dissatisfied with the state of the nation, economic conditions, personal finances and an increasing number say the war in Afghanistan is not going well. Still, a majority continues to approve of Obama's job as president.
In recent years, Republican viewers have migrated increasingly to Fox News but Democrats comprise a larger share of the Fox News audience than Republicans do of CNN's audience.
Centrism has emerged as a dominant factor in public opinion as the Obama administration begins. Republicans and Democrats are even more divided than in the past, while the growing political middle is steadfastly mixed in its beliefs about government, the free market and other values that underlie views on contemporary issues and policies. Both political parties have lost adherents since the election and an increasing number of Americans identify as independents.