Republicans were casualties of corruption

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’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.

AmericaisstillAmerica 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.


24 Responses to Republicans were casualties of corruption

  1. aristeides says:

    Generally everything is right about this except the headline. “Casualties” implies that they were somehow victims of other people’s corruption and I am afraid that wasn’t the case. The Republican Congress got off to a great start in 1994 and by now it had completely run out of puff. Time to recharge the batteries now. As far as 2008 goes, John McCain just is not going to make the ticket – far too old and far too unpopular with the GOP base.

  2. O what a beautiful morning ……

  3. The point about immigration is probably worth making a few more times. Whilst not exactly a Hispanic-loving liberal, and whilst I admit that a country’s government ought to have control of its borders, the disastrous results of the British Tories’ last two (Australian-inspired) General Election campaigns ought to have been a signal to the Republicans that anti-immigrant rhetoric is always likely to alienate as many people as it wins over. And even then, the new anti-immigration votes will also tend to be the “wrong sort” of votes: and besides, with immigration continuing anyway, regardless of which party wins and does what, the anti-immigrant party will probably find that it’s alienated a whole new generation of voters.

  4. Ted says:

    Agree with aristeides. The sleaze factor was a major turn off to voters and this was a result of the corruption of power. But think incompetence was the deciding factor – voters are more forgiving, unfortunately, of a corrupt administration that delivers than one that fails and is also corrupt.

    Republicans have a chance now to change from a conservatism built on fear and loathing to one closer to Reagan’s optimism. Bush won in 2004 because of the social conservative/evangelical votes – at cost of driving away the centre ground. This time the GOP held much of the South but they are losing the mid-west, north west and have been nearly wiped out in the north-east.

  5. Kevin Davis says:

    Can anyone tell me what the result was of the popular vote in the congressional vote? I have been trying to ascertain this morning what the overall vote was for each party.

  6. SimonNewman says:

    “there were also conservative victories on… racial preferences”

    Just to note that apparently both the Republican and Democrat parties opposed the Michigan ballot initiative, a ban on racial discrimination via ‘affirmative action’ preferences. Despite their opposition the initiative passed.


    “Ward Connerly wins big in Michigan: With over 90% of the precincts reporting, Ward Connerly’s son-of-Proposition 209 initiative banning racial/ethnic preferences is winning 58-42. Congratulations also to Ward’s campaign manager Jennifer Gratz, who was one of the losers in the Supreme Court’s 2003 Grutter & Gratz decisions upholding affirmative action at the U. of Michigan, but who has now been vindicated by the voters of her state.”

  7. SimonNewman says:

    I somewhat disagree with Oliver McCarthy above re immigration. While it is indeed possible to alienate voters by being too right-wing (as in Arizona), the majority of US voters clearly favour restricting illegal immigration, more than it is at present. Furthermore and more importantly, there is no large category of swing voters who will change from GOP to Dem because of an anti-immigration stance. So I don’t think immigration hurt the Republicans here.

  8. TopTip says:

    I once thought Bush was the man. How wrong I was. The MOST INCOMPETENT, FOOLISH AND AROGANT PRESIDENT in modern history. He will go down in history as THE GREAT MISTAKE. Not only did he invade Iraq on flimsy “evidence”, but he compounded a bad decision with further fatal errors (supported by the idiots Rumsfeld & Cheney).
    I am a Conservative. Bush was not. He didn’t really have a ideology. He increased public spending, increased the tax burden, increased the twin deficits, increased regulation and state control AND removed basic human rights like freedom from torture. He screwed the reputation of all good Americans!

    Good riddance to THE GREAT MISTAKE. Lets hope a real Republican Conservative emerges from his ashes.

  9. JH says:

    Biggest untold Disaster of the night. Losing Governors races. We better get these gems back at all cost in 2010 or the the new districts after the Cenusus will kill us

  10. Jack Bains says:

    If Bush had dumped Rumsfeld earlier things could have been so different. Colin Powell was a great statesman and he was sidelined and dumped to make Rummy and Uncle Dick happy – that’s when the whole thing started to go wrong.

  11. Andrew says:

    Here in VA from what I can tell the only reason Democrats have done well is that they are running as right of center moderates. If you look at the congressional delegation from VA its mostly Republican. Of the top three state offices the Democrats only hold the governor’s office. The last 2 govs was/is a Democrat but the 2 previous were conservative Republicans. And the 2 Democrat govs did/is doing nothing. However, the current one is trying to raise taxes (despite the fact that we have a budget surplus) which the Republican controlled legislature continues to beat him back. So I don’t think Republicans need to be overly concerned about VA unless they run idiotic campaigns like George Allen’s recent one.

  12. Perdix says:

    It was the ideology of the War on Terror that led to the incompetence of the War in Iraq.

  13. moptop says:

    The election is over. It is probably time to quit posting “fake conservative” messages on blogs. Unless you are just working on your chops, so you can be better at it next time around. If that is the case, knock yourself out.

  14. Og says:

    Surely nothing will make floating voters who voted Dem this time go back to Republican ranks quicker than seeing H Clinton on a presidential ticket.

  15. atheling2 says:

    The Republicans sat on their laurels for 12 years. They had the House, the Senate and the White House for 6 years and did nothing. President Bush’s initiatives on Social Security and healthcare went down the drain because the GOP couldn’t muster themselves – a MAJORITY – to push the agenda into legislation.

    The corruption reason makes no sense when you see that Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and William Jefferson (D-LA) were re-elected to Congress. Jim Webb’s (D-VA) kiddie porn literature didn’t seem to bother the voters too much either.

    The Democrats’ victory is due to a combination of several factors:

    1. The Dems never stopped fighting for control of Congress since 2000. Their heavy hitting tactics hammered relentlessly the themes of the “stolen” 2000 election, Halliburton, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” Cheney lives in an “undisclosed location,” Abu Ghraib, torture at Guantanamo, Bush lied about WMD, secret CIA prison sites, Valerie Plame, Evil Karl Rove, the neocons, Rumsfeld, Cheney’s “secret” energy task force, Cindy Sheehan, Bush is destroying Social Security, Hurricane Katrina, Jack Abramoff, illegal wiretaps, Bill Frist’s stock sales…

    2. The Republicans could not communicate the successes of the Administration: booming economy, record low unemployment levels, lower taxes, creation of new jobs, etc…

    3. The MSM complied with the Dems by a constant blitzkrieg of negative news about the GOP and the President. Only Fox News balanced their reports with positive and negative. 70% of American journalists are Democrats. The Democratic Party OWNS the media.

    4. Left wing propaganda from universities are producing leftwing graduates in droves. Hating George Bush is a political ideology and the source of the ferocious rhetoric behind liberalism.

    5. John McCain, a RINO (Republican In Name Only), whose compromise tactics with the “Group of 14” created fissures within the Party resolve, an open betrayal perceived by the voter.

    6. The swing voter, comparable to the Idaho spud a la La-Z-Boy with a remote control, grew weary of hearing the constant litany of Republican evils coupled with the tepid defense by Republicans to these charges, decided to vote for “change”. Whether they actually thought about what those “changes” are is another story, but here we are.

    Hopefully, the adage that one learns more from defeat than from victory will apply to the Republican Party and they will do some soul searching before the 2008 elections.

    It will be interesting to see how the Democratic Majority Leader “works” with the President on the War on Terror since Rumsfeld’s resignation, for which the timing was not accidental.

  16. leah says:

    Corruption? Oh, you mean Alan Hevesi, influence peddler, elected in NY. Or maybe you mean Bob Menendez, under indictment for bribery, elected Senator of New Jersey. Or maybe you mean William Jefferson, busted with $60,000 in cash in his freezer, elected in New Orleans. The Republicans accused of corruption either withdrew or were tried and convicted. The Democrats got elected.

  17. john says:

    The current batch of Republicans in Congress needed to go, it’s true. It’s most unfortunate that it has to be the Democrats who will replace them. Like Labour, the Democrats are good at saying things that people like to hear, while doing very bad things to the country.
    This will be a very difficult “uphill both ways” type of battle back to any kind of Republican majority. The reputation of the Republicans has been damaged in a far deeper way than I think a lot of pundits yet realize. It is not totally dissimilar from what happened to the Tories in 1997. There is nearly that same type of loathing at the street level. The Republican core vote has lost confidence, and the swing voters are no longer interested in hearing anything that Republicans have to say. As has been seen in Britain with the Conservatives, this is a situation that is not easy to overcome.
    The difference, of course, is that there is currently no Tony Blair/Bill Clinton type of leader among the Democrats. They are very nearly as despised. So, the Republicans will have to work exceedingly hard to restore confidence in their competence before Mr. Obama comes into his own. If they haven’t done it by the time he takes the helm of the Democrats, it’s curtains for the forseeable future, I’m afraid.

  18. TomTip says:

    Yo moptop, Bush is the “fake” dude.

  19. SimonNewman says:

    “The reputation of the Republicans has been damaged in a far deeper way than I think a lot of pundits yet realize…”

    The comparison with the Tories is interesting. This analysis sounds accurate. The Republicans are very lucky that the Democrats don’t have any ‘Tony Blair’ figure yet. Republicans do have one potential advantage in the Presidential election in that many GOP voters voted for Bush literally as an article of religious faith; whereas no one thought John Major was God’s representative on earth. GOP runs the risk in 2008 that if they field a moderate they could lose the religious vote, while moderates are too still too disgusted to consider voting for them. And the Democrats have been smart to field candidates who look like moderate-conservative, reality-based ‘blue dogs’ in tune with the American people. The question is whether control of the House will lead to Dem arrogance the way it did with the GOP.

  20. 1AM says:

    A reason which is being ignored for the dissatisfaction amongst voters is the economy, which is still a big factor in these results.

    Middle class and poorer Americans keep seeing stories about increasing growth, and see those above them becoming richer, but have had to put up with wages which have been almost stagnant in the last six years. Bush’s tax cuts were directed almost exclusively at the top 10% of income distribution, so they didn’t feel they were much better off from these either.

    Having been able to trump economic and domestic factors with the war on terror in previous elections, Republicans are now unable to find any real good news stories to tell the US people…Not surprisingly, they lost.

  21. atheling2 says:



    The tax cut affected everyone, rich or poor. I am by no means part of the top 10% and I saw a significant increase in my disposable income after the tax cut which enabled me to spend and save more, both of which are good for the country. As a result of the tax cut many people I know personally were able to afford to buy a house. As a matter of fact, the percentage of American homeownership is the highest it’s been under the Bush Admin than under any other previous Admin in American history.

    Sorry, but you are just wrong on the matter of the Bush tax cut. EVERYONE felt the effects, and to the better.

  22. Alexander Drake says:

    When I saw the link to this website, I wondered how many people who post on Conservative Home would come here and say “It doesn’t matter that the Republicans did badly, conservative values still triumphed because the Dems that gained previously GOP seats are largely conservative on issues like guns and abortion. Values matter than mere party loyalty”.

    And yet there are none. These are the same people that, if they were US voters and had to choose between a “Blue Dog” Democrat and a Republican, would almost certainly choose the Republican.

    To which I am tempted to conclude that the people that trot that “values are more important than the rosette” line out about the UK Conservatives are really saying:

    “I hate Cameron because he is showing that there is no longer an election-winning mandate for my sort of views within the Conservative Party, and I’d rather the Tories lose than prove Cameron right and see a change of government, because he and the swinging voters don’t agree with me.”

    Surprise, surprise. If you are involved in helping and running a political party, then ignore and dismiss those that give the winners the numbers – regardless of what your views are, and what theirs are – at your peril.

  23. Graeme Atkinson says:

    The Tories would do very well to distance themselves from the GOP. The Rove strategy of playing to the socially conservative ‘base” finally seems to be falling apart as independent voters in the center assert themselves.

    I think the Tories are smart enough to realize that, that socially conservative base does not really exist in the UK. One of the things I like about David Cameron is that he’s repositioned the Conservatives as a party of inclusion – by comparison to the GOP which has pandered to a minority (albeit a significant one) which practices the politics of exclusion and division and the aggressive proslytizing of various Christian sects.

    Add to this the virtually criminal fiscal policies of the last four years which have allowed government and public debt to bloat and you see just how far from the path of modern, progressive conservatism the GOP has strayed.

    Conservatives in Britain should not shed any tears over the GOP’s plight – it deserves it.

    I’ve often think that world affairs tend to run a lot better with a Democrat in the White House and a Tory in Downing Street. With any luck, we’ll have both of those by ’09!

  24. atheling2 says:

    Graeme Atkinson:

    Thanks. I’m glad you don’t vote here in the US.

    Why do you think “world affairs” are better when Democrats are in office? Because they hide their heads in the sand when it comes to terrorism, like Clinton did?

    Or is it because they are pals with the
    Palestinians and invite the likes of Yasser Arafat *spit!* to the White House?

    Oh wait, is it the French? The Dems prefer to cozy up to the French – even more than they do to the Brits – is that it?

    By the way, how did Karl Rove’s machinations have anything to do with the independent voter’s swinging if they were aimed at the conservative base?

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