Republicans See Red, Democrats Celebrate the Blues
Updated: November 8, 2006, 2:24 p.m.
It was a big night for the Democrats. That much was clear. By picking up at least 27 seats, the Dems easily met their goal of taking back the House of Representatives. But the depth of their celebration is yet to be determined. Control of the Senate is up in the air, with the outcome of races in Virginiawhere a Democratic victory would trigger a wholesale takeover of Congressstill too close to call. The results in Virginia appear headed for a recount that could take weeks to resolve.
But the basics of the story line had already emerged. Democrats were euphoric over reclaiming the House for the first time since 1994's Republican revolution and picking up seats for the first time in three election cycles. "Tonight we have made history," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi proclaimed at a lavish hotel victory party, complete with wine on tap and a Bruce Springsteen tribute band.
House Republicans defeated yesterday included many nationally known and long-serving members, including J. D. Hayworth of Arizona, John Hostettler of Indiana, Charles Bass of New Hampshire, and Anne Northup of Kentucky. With the outcome of more than a dozen House races still unclear and recounts underway in hard-fought districts in Connecticut, New Mexico, and the Philadelphia suburbs, Democrats may gain more seats yet.
In the Senate, Democrats had little trouble unseating the three most vulnerable Republican incumbentsPennsylvania's Rick Santorum, Ohio's Mike DeWine, and Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafeewhile fending off strong Republican pickoff attempts in Maryland and New Jersey. Democrats lost their bid to win the vacant Senate seat in traditionally Republican Tennessee, with Harold Ford Jr. falling to Republican Bob Corker, but succeeded in a similar quest in Missouri, where Claire McCaskill unseated incumbent Jim Talent. A win in Virginia, where current tallies have Democrat Jim Webb holding a narrow lead, would put the Senate in Democratic controlalbeit just barelya development that most election handicappers were calling a long shot just 24 hours ago.
Exit polls showed that Democratic gains were fueled by the 6 in 10 Americans who disapprove of President Bush and the war in Iraq. Two thirds of voters said that Iraq was very important in deciding their vote. "Nowhere did the American people make it more clear that we need a new direction than in the war in Iraq," said Pelosi, who is now expected to become speaker of the House. " 'Stay the course' has not made our country safer. … We cannot continue on this catastrophic path."
But Democrats know they must be careful in how they exercise their new power, as attention turns toward the presidential race of 2008. Their speeches last night were marked not by vows of radical change but by pledges to work with President Bush over the next two years. "We will do it by reaching across the partisan divide," said Democratic Congressional Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel last night, explaining how his party plans to govern, "setting aside the bitterness of the last few years … we'll give you the government that no longer lets you down."