It now appears that George Allen will lose his re-election battle in Virginia and the Democrats will take charge of the Senate as well as the House. That result concludes a miserable set of elections for America’s Republicans. Here are BritainAndAmerica.com’s reactions to the results…
This was an election about competence – not ideology. That’s the verdict of this morning’s Wall Street Journal and was captured by Bill Clinton’s "They can’t run anything right" remark. Two British newspapers are headlining that the ousted Republicans were casualties of (the Iraq) war. That is obviously partly true but corruption and competence were bigger factors. Blogger Rich Galen has written: "The Republican Leadership has allowed the Members to engage in self-dealing on an unprecedented scale. Whether it was trips paid for by lobbyists; hiring family members at high salaries to plan parties; steering consulting business to former staffers; or outright bribery, Members of Congress have been developed a sense of entitlement which would embarrass most of us." At least eight Republican congressmen lost their seats as a direct result of scandal and ‘corruption and ethics’ topped the list of issues of concern for American voters in exit polling (with a 42% response rate). Iraq was the second most important issue (40%) but was again an issue of competence. Most Americans supported the toppling of Saddam but have seen ‘the Rumsfeld doctrine’ of reliance on smaller, higher-tech ground forces fail to deliver victory.
The Republicans didn’t just lose an election… they had already lost their way.
Those are actually the words of GOP congressman Mike Spence. The
Republicans failed to tackle issue after issue over the last two
years. The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes has noted
how they ducked social security reform then immigration reform and then
tax reform. Every time they avoided reform in order to protect their
majorities. But they became the do-nothing Congress and now have the
worst of all worlds: They’ve lost their majorities and, in the process,
bequeathed no legislative accomplishments.
America is still a conservative nation. That is David Frum’s verdict in this morning’s Telegraph. Mr Frum, former Bush speechwriter and blogger, argues that ‘The House Class of 2006’ is much more conservative than the existing Democrat caucus. The Democrats, for example, nominated pro-gun and pro-life candidates to (successfully) unseat Republican Senators in Virginia and Pennsylvania. Taxcutting champion Grover Norquist has noted that very few Democrats were willing to run on higher taxes. Although there were referendum victories for minimum wage increases and stem cell research, most state ballot votes produced conservative victories. Gay marriage bans (except in Arizona) were adopted in more states and there were also conservative victories on cannabis, racial preferences and English as the main language.
A hardline stance on the immigration issue didn’t help Republicans. A number of conservative commentators had called on the GOP to take a hardline on immigration but Tuesday night’s results cast doubt on their prescription. Arizona Congressmen Hayworth and Graf were leading "enforcement-only" hardliners on immigration. Both were defeated.
The setbacks for the GOP were significant. Some Republicans are saying that the GOP losses were only average for midterm elections in a presidential second term. That is true on a superficial level but given the gerrymandering of congressional districts that mean there are fewer and fewer competitive districts, the Republican defeat was serious and would have been historically more significant without partisan redistricting.
Colorado, Virginia and Ohio should concern Republicans for 2008. Tuesday night’s results were particularly bad for the Republicans in the three states of Colorado, Virginia and Ohio. Ethical failures hurt the GOP across Ohio and Democrat gains in Colorado and Virginia confirmed the trends of recent years where Democrats have been doing well in state contests. Those three states were crucial to George W Bush’s presidential victories and Democrats will be targeting them heavily for 2008.
The GOP can keep the White House. With discipline and reform the Republicans can still stop a Clinton-Obama ticket (many Democrats’ favourite option) from taking the White House. Both John McCain and Rudy Giuliani remain very popular politicians – particularly with crucial independent voters. The GOP will be hoping that Nancy Pelosi’s Speakership will lead the Democrats in a left-liberal direction and will remind moderate voters of the dangers of putting a Democrat in the Oval Office.