Republicans Lose House, Senate
Absent some dramatic turnaround in the numbers in Virginia or Montana, which I don’t expect, the Republicans will lose the Senate. They have already lost the House; the only question is by how many seats.
The Senate results are precisely as I predicted Sunday, although I had revised my prediction in the CNN bloggers pool to reflect late indicators that George Allen would hold his seat. I was right the first time. My wild guess on the House of 20 Republican losses looks to be off by around 10.
That I’m not surprised doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed. Late polling trends gave me reason to hope that Allen, Talent, and Burns would all hold their seats and there was even an outside shot that Michael Steele would pick up the open seat in Maryland and that Lincoln Chafee would rally in RI. Of all those, Steele’s is the loss that is most disappointing, as he was a solid candidate who would have injected new blood into the Senate delegation. I’m not sad to see Allen or, especially, Burns go in and of themselves, although the consequences of their losses will be devastating to the GOP.
Some quick thoughts through bleary eyes:
– Several House races lost through individual scandals involving Delay, Foley, Weldon, Ney, Sherwood, and others are low hanging fruit that should be easy to recapture in ’08. Still, it will take either an incredibly popular presidential nominee or Hastertesque ineptitude on the part of Pelosi and company for the GOP to retake the House two years hence.
– The Republican leadership in both houses should, of course, be replaced with fresh faces. They have failed and must be held accountable. Newt Gingrich, who accomplished much more, had the good grace to resign for much less.
– While Republican scandals, the war, and other issues set the stage for this turnover, moderates are the key. Most of the Republican moderates–i.e., those in states that trend Democrat–lost. Most of the Democrats who won, by contrast, were Blue Dog moderates. The running of war veteran, family values candidates was the key to the Democratic victory, not the ideology of the Kos Kids.
– That’s going to make it very interesting for Pelosi and Reid. Not only are they going to have to ride herd on a delegation that’s less ideologically liberal than they’ve had in a while, there are fewer so-called RINOs to pick off. That’s going to make governing hard, especially in the Senate.
– There are no good losses. While there is a silver lining in that the GOP will have to find its soul again, it’s mighty hard to climb back into power against incumbents. As tough as Pelosi and Reid are going to have it, their position is much more enviable than that of their Republican counterparts.
– We’ll soon see if Pelosi, Murtha, Hastings, Frank, and company are as bad as the GOP propaganda machine painted them. If they are, they’ll give the Republicans a fighting chance in ’08. Given political prudence and checks and balances, my guess is they prove comparatively innocuous.
– Along those lines, Republicans should pray for the impeachment hearings to commence.
– Pelosi may be many things but she’s not an idiot. She’ll stave off any such attempts that are in the offing.
UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt is still drinking the Kool-Aid, simultaneously spinning this loss as not a big deal and arguing that the reason for the wipeout was that the Republicans weren’t heavyhanded enough in governing and listened too much to the likes of McCain and Graham. Unbelievable.
UPDATE: Matt Yglesias thinks the conventional wisdom, including mine, is wrong on the “moderates” point:
It’s true that a few races have seen culturally conservative Democrats winning conservative districts but beyond Health Shuler there really aren’t very many clear-cut examples of this. The overwhelmingly predominant trend has been for moderate-to-liberal districts in the Northeast and Midwest to dump faux moderate Republicans in favor of fairly orthodox progressive Democrats. It’s regional realignment backlash, not a new Democratic thrust into Dixie.
Chris Bowers agrees and is more specific:
Mark down House victories in NH-01, NH-02, NY-24, FL-22, PA-07, PA-08, IA-01, IA-02, CO-07, AZ-08, KY-03, CT-05, CA-11, MN-01, and NY-19. Now someone tell me again how the new wave of Democrats is overwhelmingly conservative with these districts and reps making up the majority of the new class.
I’ll defer to Bowers, especially, in his knowledge of individual House races. My sense, and presumably the CW’s, is based on a few Senate races where moderate Democrats picked off seats in Purple (VA*, OH, and MO) and even Red (MT) states, Lieberman’s triumphant rebound in CT, and as a few high-publicity House races where military veterans and the like were recruited.
Certainly, Yglesias is right that most of what happened last night was moderate Republicans losing in competitive Blue/Purple districts. Absent an absolute tidal wave such as 1974, that’s pretty much what always happens. Low hanging fruit is always picked first.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum has a pretty good list of the contributing factors to the Republican loss: Iraq, Katrina, Schiavo, the economy, sleazy campaigning, and extremism. Indeed, I’ve cited most of them myself. Steve Benen agrees and says “It’s a solid list, of course, but I don’t think it was any one factor — it was all of them, and then some.”
I think Benen goes a bit too far, though, when he says, “With this in mind, yesterday wasn’t just a defeat for Bush and the Republican Party; it was a repudiation.” I’d say instead it was a stern rebuke. [Update: So would WaPo, which used the word in its A1 headline to their election roundup story.]The Republicans governed as if they were a two-thirds party when they were a fifty-percent-plus-one party. They got greedy, corrupt, and sloppy.
With the exception of Iraq, though–which was actually pretty far down the list in the exit polls–there was not a major policy issue, let alone a governing ideology, that was decisive this election. It was a demand for competent, accountable leadership, not a mandate for a New New Deal or an enactment of the Kos Manifesto.
*Many might quibble with my characterization of Virginia, which has two sitting Republican senators and a strong tradition of electing Republicans as “Purple” rather than “Red.” I have lived here for the past four plus years, though, and would just say that Virginia is essentially two states: A traditional Southern state which is overwhelmingly Republican in the rural areas and leans Democratic in the urban areas and the fast expanding DC suburbs and exurbs of Northern Virginia. Moderate Democrats have won the last two governor’s races (incumbents are not allowed to succeed themselves) and Democrats have long been competitive in the Senate.
UPDATE: Michelle Malkin spins it as a conservative non-loss:
The GOP lost. Conservatism prevailed. “San Francisco values” may control the gavels in Congress, but they do not control America. Property rights initiatives limiting eminent domain won big. MCRI, the anti-racial preference measure, passed resoundingly. Congressman Tom Tancredo, the GOP’s leading warrior against illegal immigration–opposed by both the open-borders Left and the open-borders White House–won a fifth term handily. Gay marriage bans won approval in 3 states. And as of this writing, the oil tax initiative, Prop. 87–backed by deep-pocketed Hollywood libs, is trailing badly in California.
It’s true that America is not San Francisco liberal and that the voters just about everywhere are leery of gay marriage. I agree that the results last night were not a repudiation of conservative ideology (although I agree with Drum that the Schiavo stunt hurt at the margins) but punishment for Republican failures in leadership and personal morality.
Still, of course conservatism lost. Whether voters intended it or not, the end result is that for the next six years conservative Senators like George Allen, Rick Santorum, and Conrad Burns will be replaced by less conservative counterparts. Even relatively liberal Republicans like Linc Chafee at least caucused with the conservatives in deciding the leadership of the chamber and each and every committee chair. As a result, conservative measures will be less likely to pass for the next six years. If another vacancy opens on the Supreme Court, a Sam Alito or John Roberts will be unconfirmable leaving conservatives stuck with–at best–a Sandra Day O’Connor or Anthony Kennedy type. Woo hoo!