2006 ELECTION ANALYSIS
REPRINTED WITH THE PERMISSION OF THE AUTHOR - CHUCK MUTH
Chuck Muth'sDC CONFIDENTIAL
November 8, 2006
While most Republicans woke up this morning lamenting Armageddon Tuesday, some of us didn't lose any sleep over the election results. Happy at the prospect of two years with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi running Congress? Hardly. But there are a lot of silver linings behind these otherwise dark clouds.
* The single, most important lesson here: Democrats didn't win; Republicans lost. And they didn't just lose; they were routed. Voters didn't reward Democrats, they punished Republicans. Badly. This wasn't the country saying it wanted to go further Left; it was the country saying Republicans had already taken the country too far Left. This wasn't about taking the country in a new direction; it was about correcting the GOP's course.
* This wasn't swing voters swinging over to the Left. This was conservative voters swinging back to the Right. This was "burning the village down to save it." Conservatives didn't necessarily stay home, though certainly many did. But they did find other ways to protest the GOP's leftward tilt. It'll be interesting to see the "under-vote" in this year's congressional races. That would be the number of ballots cast where a vote in the congressional race was left blank.
* Yesterday's election was a repudiation of George W. Bush's brand of "compassionate conservatism." It was also a repudiation of waging a politically correct war with one hand self-tied behind your back. No American soldier's life is worth a mosque. And American generals, not American lawyers should be running the war. You're either all in...or get out.
* The Democrats, of course, are taking all the wrong lessons out of yesterday's results, a fact which can't help but help Republicans regain their bearings and regain their majorities two years from now. Democrats will over-reach, as is their nature. The big question is whether or not the GOP will reposition itself to take advantage of the opportunity sure to come in 2008.
* Had yesterday's reckoning with conservatives happened in 2008 instead of 2006, Republicans would have likely lost not only Congress, but the White House, as well. Best that the lesson was taught to Republicans now than later.
* The entire House Republican leadership team should now resign - from Denny Hastert on down. It's time to hand the ball off to Reps. John Shadegg and Mike Pence. Had House GOP members done that last January when they had the chance, they may have avoided the disaster they suffered yesterday.
* Question: Now that Democrats have wrested control of Congress from the Republicans, how long do you think it will be before we see helicopters airlifting the last U.S. service personnel from the roof of the American embassy in Baghdad?
* Do you think the Republican establishment will FINALLY have learned not to put its fate in the hands of a Dole? Bob Dole gave Republicans the embarrassing 1996 presidential defeat, and his wife Liddy, who was put in charge of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) this cycle, coached the team to the crushing Senate losses a decade later.
* The biggest victory in losing yesterday? The defeat of liberal Sen. Lincoln Chafee (ACU Lifetime Rating: 37) in Rhode Island. Not only was the Senate's most liberal Republican purged from the ranks, but the Republican Party's establishment got a kick right in the shorts, as well. Recall that the NRSC, the RNC and the White House pulled out all the stops to defeat Chafee's conservative challenger in the GOP primary just two months ago, saying the party had to sacrifice principle for electoral victory. As it turned out, they got neither. Conservative Republican voters in Rhode Island got their revenge.
* As did conservative Republican voters in Pennsylvania, where Sen. Rick Santorum was upbraided for famously saving liberal Republican Sen. Arlen Specter's bacon two years ago in his GOP primary race against conservative Rep. Pat Toomey. Payback's a...
* As did conservative voters in Ohio, where Sen. Mike DeWine (ACU Lifetime Rating: 80) got spanked, at least in part, for his role in the infamous Gang of 14 which stopped the Republican majority from deploying the "nuclear option" and ending the Democrat blockade of judicial nominations.
* Republican Sen. Conrad Burns out in Montana got hit by conservatives for not only drifting too far left on the Earmark Express, but for getting too tied up in the Jack Abramoff insider scandal. Any Montanan who "goes native" in Washington, DC is gonna have some big problems.
* When a strong social conservative such as Sen. Jim Talent loses in a bedrock state of social conservatism such as Missouri over the social issue of embryonic stem cell research, it's time to rejigger the conservative legislative priorities and get back to the basics of taxes, spending and national defense.
* Perhaps the most devastating loss of the evening will end up being Sen. George Allen in Virginia, a race which will likely be "too close to call" for quite some time...with the balance of power in the Senate on the line. Allen was the toast of the town just two short year's ago after riding herd on the extremely successful GOP effort that resulted in a 55-45 Republican majority in the Senate in 2004. And he was fast-tracked to be the conservative choice in the early 2008 GOP presidential contest. Those hopes are now gone, even if he does somehow miraculously hold onto his Senate seat. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
* Republicans wouldn't have lost the Senate, if in fact they do end up losing the Senate, had Republican Tom Kean Jr. won in New Jersey. Kean, you'll recall, is the Republican candidate who called for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's resignation in the campaign. Now the Left might hate Rumsfeld, but conservatives don't. Not a smart political move there.
* One bright light in the Senate contests: conservative Republican Sen. John Ensign whupped Jimmy Carter's kid's butt in Nevada. There's nothing quite like beating a Carter for conservatives.
* Oh, and let's not forget that little Democrat dust-up in Connecticut. Remember, Democrats are crowing that yesterday's victories were a victory for the anti-war movement. But former Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman came back as an Independent to crush the Left's anti-war candidate yesterday, 50-40 percent.
* You gotta believe there was a serious anti-Republican backlash out in the Colorado gubernatorial race, where outgoing Gov. Bill Owens sold out the Right by supporting efforts to suspend the state's government-restraint TABOR law last year. A strong GOP candidate, Rep. Bob Beauprez - who once served as the state's Republican Party chairman - went down in flames. Thanks, Gov. Owen.
* Asa Hutchinson was best known as George Bush's drug czar for a time, before doing a stint at the poorly-regarded...at least as far as conservatives are concerned...Department of Homeland Security. He lost his bid for governor in Arkansas.
* Republican Rep. Jim Nussle lost his bid for the governor's office in Iowa. Nussle married a lobbyist a few years back.
* Republican Dick DeVos lost his bid against the job-killing Democrat governor in Michigan. The DeVos family was well-known for their opposition to the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative which would have banned the use of affirmative action in government hiring and college admissions. Voters passed MCRI and abolished affirmative action by an overwhelming margin yesterday. A HUGE victory for my friend Ward Connerly, who I hope to have on this week's radio show Friday night.
* The best doggone victory yesterday for limited-government conservatives was Gov. Mark Sanford winning re-election in South Carolina. Sanford was under fire for being too "libertarian" - including supporting school vouchers and vetoing Republican-passed spending bills. In fact, the GOP majority leader did ads for the Democrat candidate because he was ticked off that Sanford showed up one day in the Legislature holding two pigs under his arms - one called "Pork" and the other called "Barrel." Sanford was also criticized roundly for not compromising his principles or cutting deals on core issues. He won with 55 percent of the vote.
* The worst defeat for conservatives yesterday was the loss of Rep. J.D. Hayworth in Arizona. Not only did the GOP lose a true limited-government conservative, but a leader in the fight against illegal immigration as well as an articulate spokesman. Most Republicans are tongue-tied, wishy-washy weenies when on TV. Hayworth was a notable exception. But something tells me J.D. won't be off the stage for long. Gov. Hayworth or Sen. Hayworth has a nice ring to it.
* Whether you call it a house-cleaning or thinning the herd, there's no mistaking the fact that a number of well-know moderate-to-liberal Republicans in the House of Representatives were booted yesterday. Robert Simmons (ACU Lifetime Rating: 54) in Connecticut was trailing this morning, though the race was still too close to call. Fellow Connecticutian (or is it Connecticutite) Nancy Johnson (ACU Lifetime Rating: 47) lost. Charlie Bass (ACU Lifetime Rating: 71) in New Hampshire lost. John Sweeney (ACU Lifetime Rating: 77) in New York lost. Deborah Pryce (ACU Lifetime Rating: 79) in Ohio lost. Curt Weldon (ACU Lifetime Rating 70) in Pennsylvania lost.
There's much, much more to go over, but I'm off to the radio studio for some post-election analysis on NPR. We'll pick this back up later. But believe you me, this is not as bad for limited-government conservatives as many folks would have you think. This was a much-needed pruning which will allow the GOP to come back much healthier in the future...
This was, indeed, a loss for Republicans. But they asked for it. Serves 'em right. And in the long run, this may yet prove to be a huge victory for limited government conservatism. Onward and rightward!