Ever the optimist, several things give me hope after the Democrats took over at least one house of Congress in the elections yesterday.
Not blue yet – The Democrats (Tester and Webb) hold slim leads in Montana and Virginia. If either of those swing back to the Republican side then the GOP will retain control of the upper house.
Cleaning House – Many of the Republicans who lost, especially in the House, were moderate to liberal Republicans. And of those who were more conservative, several of those were battling scandals and controversies. On the Senate side, the GOP lost several good conservative Senators, but they also got rid of some RINO’s who had been doing more harm than good.
Reddish Blue – Several of the freshman Democrats in the House and Senate are more conservative than average Democrats. Many are pro-life. Most are tough on immigration and defense, while supporting gun rights. George Will even made the comment last night that the new House may be more conservative than the last one.
Lesson taught? – The question now remains as to whether the national Republican party will get why Republicans didn’t vote or at least weren’t excited about voting. Too often recently the GOP has been concerned more with power than principle. Hopefully this will jar them back to reality. Sen. Jim DeMint told a talk show host yesterday that losing the House might not be all bad. He hoped it would bring the party back to fiscal responsibility and conservative principles.
Gridlock is good – Any time the government is not passing laws is a good time for small government supporters. The less they do the less they are inching in our lives. Most people may hate times where the government "shuts down," but that just limits the damage they can do and that is a very good thing.
Going against the tide – History teaches that midterm elections are always difficult for the party in power, even more difficult in a second term for a President. So the Republicans were already fighting historic trends. This election was also at the worst possible time for Republicans. Scandals plagued numerous candidates. The whole party in Ohio was feeling the brunt of national and statewide ethics issues. Iraq is in a seemingly dark period, hopefully before the dawn, but the end is not visibly yet. With all that working against them, it could have been worse.
Blogging fun – Honestly, it hasn’t been much fun defending a Republican Congress that was such a huge disappointment to me and other conservatives. Hugh Hewitt said:
For two years we have had to defend the Congressional gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Now we get to play offense.
He called this an exciting time for the new media. The conservative blogosphere now gets the chance to illustrate the lacking nature of the Democrats’ policy ideas. We don’t have to defend medocrity against an unknown, which always looks better. Now we can pursue an actual conservative agenda, unmask the liberal one and look good going in to 2008.
No more hiding – This election the Democrats were able to hide and simply say, "Vote against Bush and the status quo." In the next election (a presidential one), the GOP will have a lot more ammo with which to attack the liberals. If the Democrats go after the things their base wants, then they will have less of a ploy for the moderates and independents. If they propose spending increases, they can’t run on fiscal responsibility.
’08 chances – While the presidential election is too far away to really consider. The Senate and House races are already shaping up. (You can find a breakdown of the Senate races in 2008 here) While the raw numbers favor the Democrats (GOP defending 21 to the Democrats 12), I think the individual races will favor Republican pick-ups.
The Democrats, right now, have three real chances to pick-up Republican seats – Colorado, Minnesota and New Hampshire. I don’t see other races such as Texas and Georgia being a seat the GOP will lose. We may lose Susan Collins in Maine, but that’s like Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island – is it really a loss? There is also a hope that Ted Stevens could retire and a better Republican senator could take his place.
Of the big races three, Wayne Allard’s seat in CO is probably the weakest. In his two elections, he garnered only 51% of the vote. He has yet to establish himself in the Senate. He will be challenged by a fairly popular Democratic Congressman. This may be a loss for the GOP.
Unless, someone comes out of nowhere I don’t see Norm Coleman losing his seat in Minnesota. He is a solid conservative, but comes across as a centrist. He is a former liberal Democrat. The former mayor of St. Paul has ties to the metropolitian areas that normal trend Democratic. The main problem is that the Democrats don’t really have any one to challenge him. If they resort to nominating failing talk show host Al Franken, then go ahead and call this a Republican retention.
In New Hampshire, John Sununu is an interesting senator. He is very fiscally conservative, but has strayed from the Republicans on issues such as the Patriot Act, Federal Marriage Amendment and gun control. This should give him an edge in the odd state of New Hampshire, wich is a Northeastern state in terms of many social issues, but is also a very pro-small government state. I don’t think he falls.
The easiest pick-up for Republican should be in Louisiana. Could there be a worse Senator than Mary Landrieu. I know 2008 will be two more years removed from Katrina, but she is completely forgetable except for her bungling response to that disaster. Republicans should be able to field a candidate to grab this seat.
Two Democrats in red states face similar challenges. Mark Pryor in Arkansas and Tim Johnson in South Dakota will have to run in a conservative state after having served in the new Democrat controlled Congress. It will be much easier for Republicans to tar them as liberals with Reid as majority leader and Senate agenda setter. Pryor may have the best shot at keeping his seat. Johnson barely won election the first time and could face a popular governor.
Other long shots could also fall to the Republicans if things go for them as they did for the Democrats in this cycle. In New Jersey Frank Lautenberg is extremely unpopular and would most likely face Tom Kean Jr., who ran a close race this year against Robert Menendez. Also, in Michigan and in Delaware Carl Levin and Joe Biden could retire opening those races up more for a GOP challenge.
The House is a crap shot every year, but I think you have seen the worst year possible for the Republicans. I look for all of the normally Republican districts to fall back in line for the GOP after red voters experience two years with Nancy Pelosi in charge.
Life goes on – Like I said before the election yesterday, regardless of the outcome my life is still my life. Politics do not control my life. I’ll survive and so will the nation. Republicans and Conservative bloggers that are crying about the end of civilization are unable to grasp the big picture and see past their own keyboard. We survived decades of Democratic rule in Congress and even periods of total Democratic rule of every branch of government. Think back to the 1980’s and all the accomplishments of Reagan. Life is not over. If Cubs fans can be optimistic every year, then surely Republicans can be after this setback.