Bug's eye view of Richard Hayes carrying a petri dish with stem cells.

The contentious midterm elections clearly left a mark on the politics of stem cell research, but it’s not clear what the mark signifies. Missouri’s closely watched stem cell initiative barely squeaked by with 51 per cent of the vote, despite a $30 million campaign financed almost entirely by a single wealthy couple. And in nine congressional races identified as high priority by stem cell research advocates, the stem cell candidate won in only four.

At the same time, at least 60 percent of all races in which stem cell research was an issue — including high-profile races for Congress, the Senate, and governorships — were won by the candidate supporting the research. And there’s no denying the frenzied TV and YouTube campaigning by partisans on all sides reinforced the identity of "stem cells" as an iconic trope of the culture wars.

Incoming Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged a vote on federal stem cell funding "within the first 100 hours" of the new Congress. It appears there are now enough votes in the Senate to override a presidential veto....