Commentary: The Winners
Women: How does "Madam Speaker" sound? With the Democrats taking over the House, liberal California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, 66, is poised to make history as the nation's first female speaker of the House. The Baltimore native, mother of five, and major Democratic rainmaker is promising to shake things up in her first 100 daysenacting all of the 9/11 commission's recommendations and tackling issues ranging from the minimum wage to stem cell research. President Bush, who while campaigning last week suggested she not be so hasty about measuring the drapes, today offered Republican interior designers to help Pelosi pick out curtains for her new office. But it seems this congresswoman can take care of things on her own just fine. Over on the Senate side, the venerable chamber's 14 current female senators will be getting two new sisters: Democrats Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Claire McCaskill, who slipped by Republican Jim Talent in Missouri's U.S. Senate race.
Rahm Emanuel: Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean's expensive 50-state strategy may have brought some new voters into the fold and helped the Democratic wave, but it's the peripatetic Illinois representative, who was a top aide in the Clinton White House, who is reaping the plaudits for his canny candidate recruiting and message discipline throughout an ugly campaign.
Minimum wage hike: Working poor, rejoice, the days of a minimum hourly wage of $5.15 may be waning: The Dems have this on their priority list, and the party will soon push for a $2-an-hour bump, enough to shop for sundries at Wal-Mart and buy party clothes at Target. Eighteen states have passed their own minimum wage laws guaranteeing higher pay than the feds; six states have no minimum wage requirement. But health benefits? Folks, let's not get greedy.
Joe Lieberman: The three-term Democratic senator from Connecticut supported the war, nuzzled with Bush on national television, and thumbed his nose at his own party by running as an independent after he lost the primary to rich, antiwar Democrat Ned Lamont. But there's still some Joementum left in the old guy: Tuesday he quashed Lamont as well as a swaggering anti-Joe net-roots brigade, and he appears to be back big time for his fourth go-around. He may regain lost stature by becoming a key player in fashioning that new direction in Iraq that Dems have promised.
Television stations and political consultants: Most expensive midterm ever. More than $2 billion was spent on broadcast advertisingabout $400 million more than was doled out in the 2004 presidential campaign. And the Campaign Finance Institute says 527s, those unregulated, tax-exempt groups allowed to raise unlimited funds for causes but not specific candidates, pulled in $131 million, or 32 percent more than during the last midterm election. Can't wait to see the totals for '08the meter's already running. But in these days of the permanent campaign, it never really stops, does it?
The caribou: Drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge where the caribou roam now appears dead as a doornail. And it's also looking rosier for environmentalists: Big enviro groups sank $1.5 million into defeating a man they call an "ecothug": California Republican Rep. Richard Pombo, the seven-term chair of the House Resources Committee. With Pombo now cleaning out his office, the prospects for climate change legislation, new fuel economy standards, and protections for endangered species just got a huge boost.
Democratic subpoena power: Minority Dems have been itching to haul before congressional committees the Bush administration architects of the Iraq war and shapers of new and much-criticized tactics in the war on terrorism. Now they can, and Republicans are skittish. But putative Speaker Pelosi insists she and her like-minded colleagues would never, ever wield the power cavalierlyonly, says the congresswoman who has referred to Bush as "incompetent," in the interests of checks and balances.
New stars and old hands: Fifty-year-old Democrat Deval Patrick in Massachusetts becomes only the second elected black governor in the nation's historyVirginia's Douglas Wilder was the otherand Robert Byrd, who turns 89 in two weeks, is elected to his ninth term in West Virginia. And he's already the longest-serving senator in U.S. history.
Conservative talk radio: Oh, what fun they'll have the next two years.
Contributors: Dan Gilgoff, Bret Schulte, Marianne Lavelle, and Angie C. Marek