In the End, Pivotal Races Tipped to Democrats
It was a particularly tough campaign, with Murphy and Gerlach trading attack ads throughout the election season. Gerlach emphasized his independence from President Bush and managed to win the backing of the teachers unionsa valuable pickup for a Republican in the state.
The suburbs around Philadelphia and the former industrial centers like Reading were thought to be fertile ground for Murphy's message of change in Iraq and a raise to the minimum wage. She gave the national Democratic radio address before the election, an indication of the party's hopes for the race. But the district's unique geographythe result of extensive gerrymanderingcoupled with heavy advertising may have given the edge to the incumbent.
"The culture of corruption charges simply didn't stick to Jim Gerlach," says Mark Campbell, Gerlach's political director. "When you win by a couple thousand votes, it's tough to say what swung the results in the end. This race was decided last January when we decided to go hard charging all the way against Lois Murphy; the Dems probably didn't expect that." Berks County was key, though it didn't stop him from staying awake until 7:30 this morning to wait for the final certification. Alex Kingsbury
New Mexico First: Democratic Challenger Appears to Stumble in Left-Leaning District
Though up by only about 1,000 votes, Rep. Heather Wilson confidently predicted last night that her supporters would be toasting with breakfast orange juice in the morning. If she is correct, it would make Wilson one of only a handful of Republicans remaining in districts won by John Kerry in 2004. And her opponent, Democratic state Attorney General Patricia Madrid, would have the distinction of being one of the few competitive Democrats who missed the wave sweeping the party into office.
Going into Election Day, nearly all recent polls put Madrid narrowly ahead, and the left-leaning district seemed ripe for a Democratic win. Madrid attacked Wilson as a rubber stamp for President Bush, and Wilson's efforts to depict herself as an independent voice were undermined by her unwavering support for the war in Iraq.
But Madrid stumbled. Her efforts to link Wilson to the "culture of corruption" because of donations associated with Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay were not nearly as potent as Wilson's counterpunchclaims that Madrid had failed to investigate corruption in the state treasurer's office and then risked derailing federal prosecutions of state officials. Madrid consented to only one televised debate, and her awkward pause when asked a question about taxes provided Wilson with an effective last-minute ad that might have brought her across the finish line. Will Sullivan
West Virginia First: Heavily Outspent, GOP Challenger Loses to Incumbent Mollohan
Despite heavy campaigning by Republicans for Chris Wakim, incumbent Rep. Alan Mollohan was re-elected to a 13th term.
"Democrats really rallied to defend one of the few Democratic incumbents in trouble," says Robert Rupp, professor of political science at West Virginia Wesleyan College.
Last year, a Mollohan win was considered inevitable. Popular for bringing back millions in federal dollars to fund high-tech projects and create jobs in this poor coal and steel district, Mollohan won by 68 percent of the vote in 2004. But Republicans were emboldened this year by a controversy surrounding allegations that Mollohan gave millions of dollars in earmarks to groups staffed by his friends and business partners while his personal wealth soared. Mollohan has denied the charges, but national Republican heavyweights, including Vice President Dick Cheney, came to the district to stump for Wakim, a state house delegate and graduate of West Point.