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!

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2006, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. superdestroyer says:

    You are being incredibly optimistic. The Democrats know that in the long run, demographics is on their side. Look at states like New York, New Jersey, and Maryland. Does a Republican ever stand a chance of winning a state wide race again in those states? The Republicans did not even bother to run candidates in some races and states that used to be red are now very safety blue (look at New Hampshire and Ohio).

    The worst case scenario is that the National Republican Party becomes like the State Republican Party in California, Mass., or DC. An organization that has no chance of winning but is there to give the appearance that elections mean something.

  2. […] The Democrats’ margin in the Senate is very thin and the new Democratic delegation in the Senate is ideologically somewhat different than the old one was.  James Joyner notes: 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. […]

  3. John Burgess says:

    FL-13, the seat Katherine Harris left to run for the Senate (she lost, of course), is going to have to be recounted. Buchanan (R) won by a margin of 368, narrow enough a margin t trigger an automatic recount. The local paper reports some irregularities in the electronic vote count for the Dem. contender, too.

  4. James Joyner says:

    sd: Look at states like New York, New Jersey, and Maryland. Does a Republican ever stand a chance of winning a state wide race again in those states?

    Sure. Steele and Ehrlich came very close to winning in Maryland and Kean made a strong showing in NJ. Now, obviously, you’re not going to win Blue or Purple states with the same kind of candidate that will win in Alabama. But good Republican candidates have a chance everywhere, just as good Democrats can win anywhere. The key is to find candidates who appeal to the local constituency and largely reflect their values.

    In Virginia, Jim Webb is a DINO. He was in Ronald Reagan’s cabinet, for goodness sakes. He was a solid candidate who, when Allen stumbled, was able to capitalize on it. That’s the model for pickups in states where your party is the underdog.

  5. Anon says:

    Demographics are only part of the picture.

    Frankly, as an immigrant myself, I think the Republicans could win if they went after immigrants wholeheartedly. In some sense, immigrants are naturally conservative/moderate. They are hard-working, believe in individual responsibility, are suspicious of government, risk-takers, etc.

  6. Anderson says:

    The remaining Virginia precincts seem likely to lean Allen. I wouldn’t count the chickens there just yet.

  7. James Joyner says:

    Anderson: I’m not counting the chickens–I’ve given the Senate to the Democrats, which requires an Allen loss. I predicted that Sunday but revised my estimate yesterday afternoon; I was right the first time.

  8. Wizbang says:

    The Republican Rout – Blogger Reaction…

    I’m still smarting from last night’s Republican rout and will have my thoughts a little later once I get my brain cells in order. In the mean time, here is blogger reaction: Viking Pundit: Democratic sweep – Well, it was……

  9. legion says:

    Anon,
    You are confusing the ‘old’ Republican party with what wears its skin today. They cannot afford to seriously court the immigrant vote, because that would completely undercut the base they’ve spent the lat 6 years building the ‘new’ GOP on.

    Watch what they _do_, not what they _say_, my friend.

  10. legion says:

    – 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.

    Agreed. While it might be a wet-dream to many liberals, going after Bush like that, especially since he can’t run again, would be pointless. There’s more than enough corruption and incompetence in the administration’s ranks (and in Congress) to keep subpoenas flying for a long time to come.

    Of course, if the GOP wants to play the ‘nuclear option’ game, the threat of impeachment hearings would make a very nice bargaining chip…

  11. superdestroyer says:

    James,

    Ehrlich lost by 7%(barely inside the definition of competitive) for a governor that had 55% approval ratings. Steele lost by 10%, Kean lost by 9%. Those are not competitive elections. (A competitive election being one where the campaign can determine the winner).

    Look at the National Map. The Republicans have no state that they can possibly develop a plan to turn Red but there are many states that used to be red that will turn blue.

    The Democrats have the advantage in that they can tolerate very different viewpoints in their party because they deliver the goods for each group. How else can you explain a political party that gets the majority of Jewish votes and Muslim votes.

    Look at the initiative elections. People will vote for Democratic while voting to ban gay marriage, limit eminent domain, and ban affirmative action.

  12. DC Loser says:

    Pelosi’s already ruled out any impeachment shenanigans. And it looks like the Allen-Webb decision won’t come anytime soon. But since VA uses electronic balloting with no paper backup, all they can do is do the math again with all the machine results and maybe look at some paper absentee ballots and people who weren’t on the registered lists.

  13. Dave Schuler says:

    Sorry about the spurious trackback (the second), James. Don’t know how it happened. The first one’s legit, though.

  14. […] The losers are still losers no matter how much they spin their reasons why. A mirror still hangs somewhere to show them who they are. Losers. Sad clowns will follow the elephants to console them for their loss. Losers. It wasn’t about Bush or Iraq or corruption. Nor about incompetence, nor greed. Losers. It was just an election, if anyone has forgotten. Losers. It wasn’t about the Democrats vision. We are told they had none. Losers. The Republicans can get ready to get what they gave and be sore in a whole new way. Losers. Get ready to be on the bottom and get it good time and again. Losers. Get ready for a looking into all the things that happened as you looked away. Losers. […]

  15. Anderson says:

    Anyone know anything about military ballots in the Virginia Senate race?

    One would expect to be hearing all about that issue, right about now. But I haven’t seen anything yet.

  16. MetaDC says:

    Things You Should Know About This Morning: 11/08…

    A lengthy assortment of election reactions I found to be worth your time; some I agree with, some I don’t, and some are just funny: -Andrew Sullivan. -Sandy Levinson. -Jack Cafferty. -Hugh Hewitt. -Christy Hardin Smith. -Glenn Reynolds. -Lindsay Beyer…

  17. James Joyner says:

    Anderson: Good question. I can’t imagine there’s enough to turn the tide, though, since it’s nearly 10,000 votes at this stage. Allen was well ahead of Webb with veterans according to the exit polls.

  18. Cornfields says:

    My hope is that this loss sinks in, not because I have it in for the GOP, but because this electoral failure was rooted in a genuine failure of governance. Whether you are a liberal, conservative, libertarian or moderate, this Congress has been a disaster (although not in the same way for each of these types). From the perspective of Beltway Republicans this is a disaster. But if you genuinely support Conservative values, I think this is a case of one step back (loss of power) and (perhaps) one step forward (forcing the GOP establishment to pay more than lip service to Conservative values).

  19. Bandit says:

    That I’m not surprised doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed.

    Disappointed in what? What GOP-eer incumbent lost that should have won? The voters have spoken and this is what they want. I don’t agree with SuperD – these things move in cycles and I think the cycles are going to be a lot faster now. While the NE may be bluer by 2012 you’re going to see more NE states lose seats in Congress to the South and SW. I don’t see any enthusiasm outside of the DNC for a return to tax and spend which the Dem leadership will certainly propose. I see divided gov’t for the foreseeable future.

  20. manapp99 says:

    I think the MSM are the big winners here as this
    election shows that they can still sway public opionion and are therefore relevent. The hopes for Republicans hinge on alternate forms of information gathering such as cable, talk radio and the internet. As more and more people get more information from more sources, they will be better able to get through the bias that exists on both sides. The economy is a great example as it was downplayed by the MSM and therefore a smaller factor than would have been expected.

  21. Billy says:

    Hugh Hewitt, unbelievable?!? Who would’ve thought?

    Much to the chagrin of the uber-liberals who would love nothing more than to see a public hanging of W., I think we’re going to see a very pragmatic Dem agenda come out of this. If they’ve learned nothing from 12 years of being in the wilderness, they’ve had to pick up ways of triangulating and driving an agenda so as to emasculate the minority. This will obviously come in a very different form than the heavy-handed Republican tactics (which lead to the party’s inevitable legislative demise). In any case, I doubt very seriously that we’re going to see overt partisan vitriol from the new majority right out of the gate. Expect some feigned magnanimity and a series of initiatives that give Bush a choice between bad and worse.

  22. The Carnage may not be over yet…

    In Florida both Clay Shaw’s Florida 22nd and the Florida 16th formerly held by Mark Foley were lost. When I went to bed, the Florida 13th looked to be staying GOP. This morning things don’t appear so clear…

  23. Anderson says:

    since it’s nearly 10,000 votes at this stage

    7,000, but who’s counting?

    Four precincts left, 2 in James City County, one in Isle of Wight, one in Fairfax City. The 1st 3 appear likely to go Allen.

  24. Anderson says:

    As more and more people get more information from more sources, they will be better able to get through the bias that exists on both sides.

    But is that what happens? Or do people bubble-in themselves at LGF or dKos and ignore anything outside the bubble as “bias”?

    Alternative sources doesn’t mean *more* sources *per person*; it can just as easily mean fewer per person.

  25. Mark says:

    Anderson,

    Those precints by themselves are not likely to produce enough votes to put Allen over the top.

  26. Anderson says:

    Those precints by themselves are not likely to produce enough votes to put Allen over the top.

    Well, I hope you’re right — it seems they could at least cut the lead by a few thousand.

  27. Dems projected to pick up four Senate seats…

    Democrats are projected to pick up four GOP-held seats but must win the two remaining undecided race…

  28. James Joyner says:

    Bandit: That the voters went in a different direction than I’d have preferred is, almost by definition, disappointing.

    Certainly, I think Steele genuinely deserved to win. Talent is less well known to me but he is, by all accounts I’ve seen, a decent guy and a solid Senator. He got beaten by a strong candidate in a bad year to be a Republican.

  29. Triumph says:

    Absent some dramatic turnaround in the numbers in Virginia or Montana, which I don’t expect, the Republicans will lose the Senate.

    I think that it is clear that the Democratic win is a clear vindication and expression of support for Bush’s presidency. By affirming Bush, the Iraq war, and his compassionate conservativism, voters have shown that they value his leadership and affirm his vision for making America stronger.

    If there is any winner in this election, it is Bush.

  30. DC Loser says:

    Fairfax City alone has more people than those other counties put together, and the rest of Fairfax County went for Webb by about 20 percentage points.

  31. Anderson says:

    Fairfax City alone has more people than those other counties put together

    That helps. But the 6 or so precincts that had already reported in the city totaled only 7,000 votes or so, which didn’t lead me to hope for much from the remaining precinct. Whereas the counties’ totals thus far were in the 20,000s.

    Anyway, it’s not like I *want* Allen to win. I’m just being a self-hating Democrat, I guess …

    –Okay, Fairfax City is 100% in, with 8,083 votes, 4,538 of those for Webb. All we are now waiting on is the 2 precincts from “James City County” (so what is it?) and the 1 from Isle o’ Wight, which are not likely, as Mark noted, to provide a 7,000-vote surplus for Allen. How many Virginians are serving in Iraq & Afghanistan?

  32. Triumph says:

    Rummy’s out!

  33. Bandit says:

    That the voters went in a different direction than I’d have preferred is, almost by definition, disappointing.

    What you should really be disappointed in isn’t the outcome, but the performance of the GOP-eers in the last 4 years. No way, no how did they deserve to win. You can’t count on your opponent to suck every time.And even though the Dems did suck the GOP was even worse.

  34. Anjin-San says:

    Hopefully, the result of this will be a move to the center by both parties, and a realization that both parties can offer candidates the opposition can respect, such as Jim Webb.

    I hope the GOP moves towards returning to being the party I was proud to belong to under Ronald Reagan. Chuck Hegel strikes me as the man who might take it there.

    My message to Nancy Pelosi is don’t let it go to your head. The American people are looking for some humility from their leaders right now.

  35. Bithead says:

    The problem with your analysis is that you’re not taking into consideration the people that those democrats replaced. the republicans who ended up getting replace in the races that Mr. Bowers mentions, were to one man to the left of the republican party. From there, it’s not much of a leap to center line democrat.

    Now, had Rhode Island for example go on from Lincoln Chaffee directly to the reincarnation of Kucinich, Bowers might actually have a point…. but in no case did that kind of shift happen.

    Bowers, and the rest of the far left had best heed that point, and the measurement of the refferendums in the various districts. As Michelle points up today:

    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.

    Those kinds of voting patterns are hardly to be consdiered Mainline Democrat, and certainly not the kind of Democrat voter Bowers would approve of.

    Tie this with the idea that the approval ratings of the Democrats have been polling lower than the Republicans in the last couple years, even up to and including this last week, and clearly, there’s a danger for the Democrats in taking this vote to mean even a partial approval for their far leftist agenda. The data coming in from last nights voting suggests that it’s an approval the Democarts simply don’t have.

  36. Pug says:

    Bowers, and the rest of the far left had best heed that point

    Bithead, perhaps you shouldn’t be issuing warnings today about what the Democrats should heed. The Republicans got clocked last night, not the Democrats. I’ve certainly heard no Democrats calling for a “far left agenda”.

    Maybe today is a day for the “far right” to be doing a little soul searching, not the “far left”. Maybe next time the Republicans can try to come up with something a little better than the “John Kerry hates the troops” strategy.

  37. floyd says:

    james ; I was despondent until I read your last sentence, now I’m TERRIFIED!!we are going to need at least a couple more Scalias if we hope to save the world’s last best hope.

  38. Bithead says:

    I’ve certainly heard no Democrats calling for a “far left agenda”.

    Perhaps some reading of the words of John Conyers , Dirty DIngle and Harry Reid would be helpful to that end.

  39. anjin-san says:

    Pug,

    Cheney & Rush have told Bit to be terrified of “the far left” and he is doing what he has been told to do.

    Hopefully rational people in both parties can seize this opportunity to abandon party dogma, and begin to work to solve our country’s problems. Its what the founding fathers intended.

    Divided government worked very well in this country just a few short years ago. I am saddened to see that some people in this country actually seem to despise the democratic process, but I think it just might work in spite of them…

  40. floyd says:

    superdestroyer; I think you describe the democrats very well. allow me to say rephrase succinctly….they are CONFUSED !

  41. Bithead says:

    Hopefully rational people in both parties can seize this opportunity to abandon party dogma

    so, just how far does your bipartisanship extend? So far all I’ve seen out of you is criticism for the republicans. Meanwhile the democrats can do no wrong? PPPPpppppppppppppth.

  42. anjin-san says:

    Bit,

    If Hegel runs for President, I will support him. Good man, decorated combat vet, hard worker, actually reads bills before he signs them. I am on record many times saying Reagan was a great president I was proud to vote for.

    I have been highly critical of John Kerry and numerous other Democrats, if you think I feel they can do no wrong, you are not reading carefully enough. I just think that Democrats suck less than the disgrace the GOP has become under Bush.

  43. […] So this race can’t be put to bed yet. I agree with much of James Joyner’s conclusions at OTB. These four in particular. – 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. […]

  44. RepublicansÂ’ Uphill Fight To Regain The Senate In 2008 By James Joyner…

    In my morning-after election analysis, I noted that it would be very difficult for the Republicans to take the House……