Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A few bright spots for Republicans

George W. Bush lost his first national election Tuesday.

The president wasn't on the ballot anywhere in the United States, but clearly Tuesday's vote was a repudiation of Bush's handling of the Iraq War.

Bush still has two years left in the White House, but voters punished the Republican Party for the Bush administration's failures in Iraq by turning control of the House of Representatives over to the Democrats for the first time in 12 years. The Senate could end up tied 50-50 or in Democratic hands depending on the outcome of one race that is still too close to call.

The resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld Wednesday was another casualty of Tuesday's vote. What if Rumsfeld had quit a week ago? Would the Republicans have held onto Congress?

While Nancy Pelosi is busy picking out curtains for her new office as Speaker of the House, was this really a mandate for the Democrats? Eighteen of the House seats that went to the Democrats Tuesday were won by 5,000 or fewer votes. They could easily swing back to the Republicans in 2008. And many of the Democrats who won Tuesday are moderates or conservative. How far are they willing to follow Pelosi, a San Francisco liberal?

Now that Democrats are in the majority, they no longer can sit on the sidelines and just complain. They actually have to get off their duffs and do their jobs, something they haven't done since 2004. Saying "no" to every initiative offered by President Bush offers won't cut it anymore. Democrats will actually have to lead, something they're not very good at doing.

My prediction is that Pelosi and her liberals will fall flat on their faces over the next two years, clearing the way for an even bigger GOP majority in 2008. Remember that Bush won't be a factor in 2008. When your entire strategy is to run against the president and he's done with his term, you have no strategy at all.

For Pennsylvania Republicans looking for a glimmer of hope following Tuesday's Election Day drubbing, here's a few points to consider:

* Incumbent Republican Congressman Jim Gerlach won re-election against heavily favored Lois Murphy. Gerlach was the No. 1 target of Democrats in this year's House races. Despite millions of dollars poured into the Murphy campaign and visits from Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, Lois Murphy was rejected by voters in the 6th Congressional District. This is a race Democrats wanted to win badly, but they blew it.

* Seven other incumbent Republican congressmen from Pennsylvania won re-election Tuesday: Charlie Dent, Joe Pitts, Phil English, John Peterson, Bill Shuster, Tim Murphy and Todd Platts.

* U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick finally conceded the 8th District seat Wednesday afternoon to his Democratic challenger, Patrick Murphy, who isn't old enough to shave. I predict Murphy will serve one term. Republicans will get the seat back in 2008. When the dust settled, Pennsylvania's 19-member Congressional delegation ended up with 11 Democrats and 8 Republicans. Not exactly a Democratic wave.

More bright spots for the Republicans:

* Mike Veon, the No. 2 Democrat in the state House and one of the architects of the July 2005 legislative payjacking, lost to a GOP reformer in western Pennsylvania. Veon was the only legislator voting against the pay raise repeal in November 2005.

* Seven of the 10 Republicans running for state Legislative seats in my neck of the woods, Berks County, won their races. The group of 10 ran as a reform coalition and promises to stir things up in Harrisburg.

* It doesn't appear Democrats will win control of the state House despite Gov. Ed Rendell's coattails and the $3 million Rendell tossed into Legislative races to help get a Democratic majority.

* Republicans hold a solid majority in the state Senate and with Rendell cronies Bob Jubilirer and Chip Brightbill gone, don't expect cooperation from the Senate leadership when it comes to pushing Rendell's tax-and-spend agenda.

* Three candidates endorsed by the Pennsylvania Club for Growth PAC, Mike Folmer (48th Senate District), Jim Cox (128th House District) and Todd Rock (90th House District) won their respective races Tuesday, showing the growing influence of GOP conservatives in Pennsylvania.

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