I was speaking with a Republican Senator just moments after Senator George Allen (R-VA) conceded defeat to Reagan Republican - turned Democrat James H. Webb, Jr. The Senator told me, "Perhaps we are better off with Democrats' controlling both Houses than we would have been with Republicans' holding on by virtue of Vice President Cheney's breaking a tie." I think the Senator is correct. With only one vote clinging to a majority there would have been an unreasonable expectation of what the barely Republican Senate working with President George W. Bush could accomplish. Now the Democrats are in control of both Houses. It is clear cut. They are in charge. Since President Bush does not like to veto bills (he has vetoed one bill in six years in office) you can look for Bush now to seek compromise with the Democratic Congress.
Those compromises will be good for the Democrats but very bad for the Republicans. Republicans only win when there are sharp differences between the parties. That was one of the problems with this election. The Democratic Party deliberately recruited Democrats who agreed with the Republicans on certain issues. Inasmuch as voters only vote for Republicans when Democrats are far too liberal, the strategy worked. If Democrats play it right they can be in power for the next generation.
At a strategy meeting for conservatives, one Republican official went down the list of new Democratic Members of the House who had won by 4,000 votes and under, then 2,000 votes and under and, finally, by a few hundred votes. This official used this tally supposedly to show that the Republicans can come roaring back in 2008. I disagree. Democrats are skilled at teaching their Members how to solidify their districts. When all is said and done I'll state here and now that I expect only a handful of freshmen Democrats to be defeated in 2008. Many had everything but the old kitchen sink thrown at them in this election. They were running against incumbents and incumbents are difficult to defeat. They have for the most part more special-interest money than do challengers and they have millions of taxpayer money to use to help them get reelected. The fact that so many Republican incumbents were defeated is a testimonial to how strong the Democratic sweep really was.
January will begin my 40th year in Washington. Of course, I was only 12 when I came here. Seriously, I was 24 and took the job as Press Secretary to Senator Gordon L. Allott (R-CO). I have continued to learn every year I have been here. Every day is different. Every day presents new challenges.
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