- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2006

Early targets

“Halliburton, the CIA and big tobacco companies are among the early targets identified by top Democratic staff to ABC News as likely targets for investigation once the Democrats take control of the House at the beginning of next year,” Rhonda Schwartz reports at ABC.com.

“The staffers say Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi … has told top Democratic donors there is a ‘100-hour agenda’ she wants to push through — taking on the minimum wage, drug and energy prices and corruption.

“Defense contractors, including Halliburton, the intelligence rationale for the war in Iraq and CIA secret prisons are what one staffer called ‘uninvestigated scandals.’ ”

Deadly perception

“This defeat had a thousand fathers,” the editors of National Review said yesterday at www.nationalreview.com.

“There will be a temptation simply to blame President Bush for it, given the liberal interest in continuing to weaken him and the congressional-Republican interest in avoiding blame. … But let’s not forget how many wounds the congressional GOP inflicted on itself,” the magazine said.

“Republicans lost roughly 29 seats in the House. If party leaders had forced Don Sherwood, Bob Ney, and Mark Foley out in 2005 or early 2006, they would have cut that total by three and been able to spend more resources turning narrow defeats into narrow victories. Tom DeLay and Curt Weldon should have left earlier, too. In the Senate, Conrad Burns should have been forced out. Had Ohio governor Bob Taft been pressured to resign early, a number of races there might have turned out differently.

“It is congressional Republicans, more than the president, who are responsible for the loss of the party’s reformist credentials. Republicans were perceived not just as the party in government, but as the party of government. That perception, deadly for the relatively conservative party in our politics, was accurate.”

Western erosion

“This one is pretty easy to explain,” Fred Barnes writes at www.weeklystandard.com.

“Republicans lost the House and probably the Senate because of Iraq, corruption, and a record of taking up big issues and then doing nothing on them. Of these, the war was by far the biggest factor. Unpopular wars trump good economies and everything else. President Truman learned this in 1952, as did President Johnson in 1968. Now, it was President Bush’s turn, and since his name wasn’t on the ballot, his party took the hit,” Mr. Barnes said.

“The defeat for Republicans was short of devastating — but only a little short. The House seats the party lost in New York and Connecticut and Pennsylvania will be hard to win back. Just as Republicans have locked in their gains in the South over the past two decades, Democrats should be able to solidify their hold on seats in the Northeast, as the nation continues to split sharply along North-South lines.

“What should worry Republicans most, however, is erosion of its strength in the West and in two states in particular: Colorado and Arizona. Four years ago, Colorado was solidly Republican. Since then, Democrats have won a Senate seat, two House seats, the governorship, and both houses of the state legislature. At the state level, that’s realignment.

“In Arizona, Republicans dropped two House seats and Republican Sen. John Kyl got a mild scare. Kyl, by the way, may be the finest and most able senator in Washington. He’s certainly in the top five. Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano cruised to victory.

“The bottom line is this: Colorado and Arizona may not be there for Republicans in the 2008 presidential race. Of course, everything depends on the actual candidates, but these two states start out as presidential swing states. This is a new development.”

Negative ads

“Glad it’s over? You’re not the only one. Voters in six states with closely contested U.S. Senate races were recently asked by the Gallup Organization their opinion of the political advertising they’d seen this year. The vast majority, in every state surveyed, described it as either ‘somewhat negative,’ ‘very negative’ or ‘extremely negative.’ Roughly a third of those surveyed in each state said ‘extremely negative,’ ” John Ellis writes at www.OpinionJournal.com

“According to Advertising Age magazine, the total amount spent this year on political advertising will reach $2 billion, a hefty increase over 2004. If one conservatively estimates that at least half of all political advertising can be fairly described as ‘negative,’ then 2006 will be the first year that negative political advertising expenditures reached the $1 billion mark. That’s a dollar amount greater than all of the television, radio and print advertising buys done by Anheuser-Busch (estimated by Ad Age to be $919 million) in 2005,” Mr. Ellis said.

“Imagine, if you will, what your taste for Miller beer would be if Anheuser-Busch spent half of its annual advertising budget describing all of the various Miller brands in the most unsavory terms. Or, what your taste for a Budweiser would be if the lads at Miller unleashed a $500 million negative ad campaign against ‘the King of Beers.’ Imagine both at the same time and you get some idea of what domestic politics is like for most Americans.”

Doctor’s orders

“Some have said that Republicans and Democrats now need to govern from the middle. I disagree,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, in assessing his party’s Tuesday defeat. “We do not need to govern from the center as much as we need to govern from conscience. When politicians have the courage to argue their convictions and lose their political lives in an honest battle of ideas, the best policies will prevail.”

A physician before being elected to Congress in the 1994 “Republican Revolution,” Mr. Coburn offered this prescription:

“The American people do want civility, but they also want real debate. Civility does not mean an absence of conflict, but a return of honor and dignity in our politics. Voters are bored and tired of partisan role playing in Washington. …One of the great paradoxes in politics is that governing to maintain power is the surest way to lose it. Republicans have the ideas to solve our greatest challenges. If we focus on ideas, our majority status will take care of itself.”

Family troubles

Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr., a Democrat who ran for a Senate seat from Tennessee, wasn’t the only one in his family to go down to defeat Tuesday.

Jake Ford ran as an independent for the House seat from Memphis that brother Harold was vacating to run for Senate, but Jake lost badly to Democratic nominee Steve Cohen.

The final tally showed Mr. Cohen with 60 percent of the vote. Mr. Ford finished second with 22 percent, and Republican Mark White came in last at 18 percent.

Harold Ford stayed neutral in the House race.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce @washingtontimes.com.

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