In the End, Pivotal Races Tipped to Democrats
DeWine tried to sell himself as an "independent fighter for Ohio families," but his ads went increasingly negative in the campaign's final days, undercutting his image as a mild-mannered moderate. Dan Gilgoff
New Jersey: Democrat Menendez Holds Off Famous-Name Opponent
Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez protected his Senate seat yesterday, capitalizing on disapproval of President Bush and the Iraq wardespite a hard push by challenger, state Rep. Tom Kean Jr., whose competitive campaign won him an influx of National Republican Senatorial Committee cash late in the game last week.
Votes on each side were neatly predicted by voters' position on Bush and the war: According to CNN exit polls, 89 percent of voters who strongly disapprove of Bush's handling of his job voted for Menendez, while 89 percent of voters who strongly approve of the U.S. war in Iraq voted for Kean. Voters drew the connection despite Kean's positioning himself as an "independent reformer," not a Bush Republican. Kean was the first Republican to call for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation, and he continued to do so throughout the campaign.
New Jersey voted for Kerry in 2004 and elected a Democrat governor in 2005, and the state seems only to be getting bluer. In exit polls, 52 percent said they want Democrats to control the Senate, compared with just 50 percent who said they voted for Kerry in 2004.
Kean, a state senator whose father was a popular governor in the 1980s and served on the bipartisan 9/11 commission, ran against that trend by attempting to tie Menendez to notoriously dirty New Jersey politics. The charge seems to have workedin exit polls, 61 percent of voters said Menendez does not have high ethical standards, compared with just 47 percent for Keanbut only to a point. Even voters who said ethics issues were "very important" in their vote supported Menendez.
The win makes Menendez the first Latino elected to the Senate in New Jersey. Jon Corzine appointed him to the post last year after Corzine was elected governor. Elizabeth Weiss Green
Maryland: Democrat Claims Win, but Republican Won't Concede
A handful of news outlets called the Maryland Senate race for Democrat Ben Cardin relatively early yesterday evening, but with incomplete returns showing Republican Michael Steele to be ahead at some points, Steele refused to concede. "You have worked too hard ... for us to slow this train down now just because some TV station wants to make a projection with 1 percent of the vote in," Steele told supporters last night. "... They don't call me Steele for nothing."
As the clock ticked passed midnight, however, with 85 percent of precincts reporting, Cardin held a commanding 54-to-45 point lead. Shortly after Steele made his remarks last night, Cardin claimed victory, vowing to fight for bread and butter Democratic causes like affordable healthcare and education, while pledging to treat changing the course in Iraq as "priority No. 1."
A career politician who has served 10 terms in the U.S. House, Cardin's campaign showcased his vote against the Iraq war and lashed Steele, Maryland's current lieutenant governor, to the policies of President Bush. The first African-American elected statewide in Maryland, Steele built his campaign on innovative ads that overlooked his party affiliation and positioned him as a Washington outsider. He also tried hard to reach black voters, who make up nearly 30 percent of the electorate, to capitalize on what he saw as black disenchantment with Cardin, who is white and who bested former NAACP chief Kweisi Mfume in the Democratic primary. But Steele's candidacy, in an overwhelmingly Democratic state in a year when anti-GOP sentiment is high, was always a long shot.