The Northeast is now to Democrats what the South has recently been for Republicans: an absolute political stronghold.

“A Category 5 political storm hit the shores of the Northeast on Tuesday, realigning the region from a moderately competitive terrain between the two parties to solidly Democrat,” wrote Chuck Todd of National Journal.

In 1994, Republicans won sixteen House seats in the South, claiming a majority of the old confederate states for the first time since Reconstruction. In 2006, Democrats picked up ten seats in the Northeast, a third of their new 30ish seat majority.

In Pennsylvania alone, Democrats won four new House seats and added two more each in Connecticut, New Hampshire and New York, according to the latest figures.

Sam and I spent the last three days before the Election in suburban Philadelphia (for an upcoming Nation video), talking to swing voters in three tightly contested Congressional districts. These voters, a significant number of them longtime Republicans, were fed up with George W. Bush and the GOP Congress, angry about the war in Iraq and deeply unsatisfied with the direction of the country.

Exit polling released by CNN confirmed what we’d been hearing over and over anecdotally. Sixty-eight percent of voters in the East disapproved of Bush and the job he was doing. Only 35 percent approved of Republican leaders in Congress.

National issues were of particular relevance here. Sixty-eight percent of voters said that Iraq was extremely important or very important to their vote, an issue trumped only by the economy, which a majority described as “not good” or “poor.” Sixty-five percent believe it’s time to start bringing our troops home.

Self-identified moderates outnumber both liberals and conservatives by a 2-1 margin in this region. It was these voters, on the streets of suburban Philadelphia, in upstate New York, in rural New Hampshire, in middle-class Connecticut, who deserted the GOP in droves. It may be a long time before they come back.