Wednesday, November 08, 2006

the elections: overnight impressions

I blogged the impending Democratic victory last week, so there's less to say than there might otherwise be. A couple of instant observations:

1. The talk of "tsunamis" and "tidal waves" strikes me as overblown. The Democrats will have something like the same advantage (about 30 or so seats) the Republicans previously had in the House. The Senate lead hangs on a couple of close elections and the support of Joe Lieberman who basically sides with the President on the most important issue--and won decisively, anyway. A forceful correction, but not necessarily a long-term trend.

2. While the Republicans need not panic nationally, they have a serious problem in the blue and even some purple states. Handing out Santorum literature at the polls yesterday, I had it thrown back at me by some voters with a contemptuous look. It was the same look I got in 1980, as a Democrat, campaigning for Ted Kennedy--a look suggesting you are so far removed from the person's concerns that they are not even listening to what you say. If the Republicans don't get more competitive in these locations, they pretty much have to run the table everywhere else--a feat they managed in 2000 and 2004 but, as yesterday's results show, one that you can't always depend on.

3. I think the elections are bad news for Hillary Clinton's presidential ambitions. The national face of the Democrats will now be Nancy Pelosi, a grandmotherly and liberal woman from a big coastal city. Hillary Clinton is a grandmotherly and liberal woman based in a big coastal city. The likelihood that the country will want both its President and legislative leader to be cut from such similar cloth seems remote, although they have in some sense already done that by entrusting power to Bush and the congressional Republicans. Democratic control will also make the Senate a more appealing forum for Clinton; but that is for her to decide.

One interesting point concerns the size of the Democratic victory. As they move from a 25 to a 30 or 35 vote margin in the House, the need to compromise with their own moderates (not to mention Republicans) becomes that much less. That's good news for the leadership, but bad news for the party, which badly needs a moderate face if it is to capitalize on its success more than the Republicans in 1994. The early indications, in which the Democrats have talked in vague terms about "cleaning up" Capitol Hill but offered few genuine prescriptions regarding Iraq or otherwise, are not especially encouraging. I still think the Democrats will win the Presidency in 2008, but their task might actually have gotten harder last night.


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