The wave was even bigger than it looked on the networks' election-night maps.
Republicans picked up so many seats in state legislatures that the party will control 68 of the nation's 98 partisan chambers come January - the most since 1920, a time of flappers, bathtub gin, and the Model T.
They'll have legislative control in 30 states, to 11 for the Democrats. Counting Republican governors, the GOP will dominate the governments of 24 states (to six for Democrats).
By one calculation, that means about 48 percent of the U.S. population will live in states where Republicans can drive their agenda without significant Democratic opposition.
After the 2010 midterms, a not-quite-as-big year of wins for Republicans, the GOP used sizable majorities in state legislatures to own the redistricting process, as well as to push voter ID laws, restrictions on abortion rights, and antiunion measures. In Michigan - birthplace of the auto industry, scene of early battles of the labor movement - Republicans were able to enact a right-to-work law.
In Pennsylvania, of course, there was a quirk in the Nov. 4 wave. Republicans increased their majorities in the state House and Senate, with more conservative members - even as the party's governor, Tom Corbett, was losing by 9.7 percentage points.
Democrats had touted their chance of taking the Senate in Harrisburg - but ended up losing three seats, and will face a 30-20 GOP majority in January. In the House, Republicans gained eight seats, and their majority - 119 of 203 members - will be the largest either party has enjoyed there since 1958.
"We were part of the same wave, which is why the Democrats lost some more seats," said veteran pollster Terry Madonna of Franklin and Marshall College. "Gov. Corbett was the only exception - and, in a sense, he never survived his first year, when his job approval dropped."
That year, 2011, was when the federal stimulus funding that had propped up education spending ran out, and Corbett chose not to make up the difference with state money, while keeping promises: pursuing a round of business-tax cuts, trimming the budget, and not taxing the naturalgas industry on the value of its take from the Marcellus Shale fields. (Corbett did get an "impact fee" to help local governments deal with the flood of drilling.)
The resulting drop in education cash caused teacher layoffs and other cuts, along with local property-tax increases, to ripple across the state, and Corbett took the brunt of the blame. His approval rating never really recovered, although it had for previous governors who had rough first years, which seems to be something of a tradition for Pennsylvania governors.
Corbett's successor also could face a tough start. The Independent Fiscal Office last week forecast a deficit of up to $2 billion for the incoming Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, even as he contends with those supercharged GOP majorities. Wolf also has an aggressive agenda - to boost school spending, tax the drillers, and tinker with the state's flat income tax to make the burden heavier on the wealthy and lighter on the middle class.
And, to celebrate their success, conservative Republicans toppled the state Senate's moderate GOP leadership.
"We were optimistic about our ability to pick up seats in Pennsylvania, but we needed some things to break our way," said Kurt Fritts, national political director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, or DLCC, in Washington.
"A lot of polling in the cycle had Tom Wolf up 20 to 25 points," but in reality the electorate in Pennsylvania was a more typical electorate for midterms, Fritts said. "Democrats just didn't come out like they did in 2012. And voters who turned out didn't necessarily tie their distaste with the governor to Republican legislative candidates."
Both sides' operatives spoke of the grumpy national mood.
"Every chamber majority that Republicans gained outside of West Virginia were in states President Obama won twice," said Justin Richards, political director of the Republican State Leadership Committee. "Voters overwhelmingly voted for a new, open, innovative future for their families."
Said Aren Platt, a Democratic strategist who worked on a competitive but ultimately futile state Senate race in Delaware County: "The national mood, which had so much to do with disappointment in the Obama administration, was too much to overcome." Favorable district lines drawn by GOP legislative majorities after 2010 also did not help, he noted.
Nationally, Democrats hope to make up ground in 2016, with a presidential election at the top of the ballot to galvanize turnout. The DLCC was formed to try to put the party on more even footing with the national GOP, which has put a priority on winning legislatures - with an eye toward congressional redistricting.
"It was a difficult cycle for us. It was a difficult cycle for the rest of the party," said Michael Sargeant, executive director of the DLCC. Even so, he said, "I think we put ourselves in position to make large gains in 2016."
One potential outcome in Harrisburg next year is gridlock, but some analysts suggest that the new strategic balance could be surprisingly productive.
While it will be harder for Wolf to move his agenda, the GOP won't have veto-proof majorities in the legislature. Wolf - along with lawmakers mindful of his veto power - will have an incentive to compromise and get some things done.
And that's what grumpy voters like.