Winners and losers of election 2006

Breakdown

The Nation Votes 2006

November 09, 2006|By Paul West | Paul West,Sun Reporter

WASHINGTON -- With thousands of individual contests in 50 states, there were too many winners and losers to count in the midterm vote. Here, in no particular order, are a few notable ones, including some whose names did not appear on any ballot:

Winners: Democratic Women - She'll never gain the fame that Newt Gingrich got for leading the Republican revolution of 1994, but Rep. Nancy Pelosi has something better: a place in the history books as the first woman to serve as speaker of the House.

The 2006 election was also a launching pad for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Her re-election clears the way for the most serious effort ever by a female presidential contender - if she can convince Democratic primary voters that she's got a real shot at winning back the White House.

Loser: President Bush - His party's candidates were running away from him at the end, and the election stamped the lame-duck president as lamer still. But the often underestimated Texan has a chance to surprise the doubters one last time. Instead of gridlock, he'll seek progress on immigration reform, raising the minimum wage and other fronts next year, and he might well get it. Dumping Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was a reminder, if one was needed, of Bush's unmatched ability to command the spotlight - and change the subject - even on one of the worst days of his presidency.

Winner: Barack Obama - The most overexposed noncandidate of the year saw his presidential chances soar like a dot-com stock. But the freshman Democratic senator has started to face scrutiny over a questionable Chicago land deal, and the road to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. might only get steeper and rockier from here.

Loser: Dennis Hastert - The longest serving Republican speaker in history is bowing out of the leadership instead of waiting to get dumped. Other top Republicans in the House may follow his lead. Denny, we hardly knew ye.

Winner: Netroots - A trend that took off in the 2004 presidential contest gathered steam this year. Internet activists successfully mobilized ground forces for their favorite Democratic candidates. The revolutionary impact of online fundraising may be the biggest unwritten political story of the year.

Loser: The 72-Hour Program - The vaunted Republican turnout operation failed to stem the tide this time. On the other hand, it might well have kept a bad election night from turning into a total nightmare.

Winners: Rahm Emanuel and Charles E. Schumer - The architects of the Democratic takeover campaign came up with the money and the message for a victory that seemed unlikely until recent weeks. They aren't household names in most parts of the country, but they can write their own ticket now on Capitol Hill.

Loser: Karl Rove - Religious conservatives strayed, fiscal conservatives stayed home and independents crossed to the other side. A legion of critics blames the polarizing politics of Bush's chief strategist, whose dream of a Republican majority has, at the very least, been deferred.

Winners: Hispanic Democrats - Immigrant-bashing by conservative Republicans helped drive away Hispanic voters in the midterm elections. Now, the nation's fastest growing minority group is positioned to give Democrats a big boost in the 2008 White House fight.

Loser: Ken Mehlman - Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele's defeat in the U.S. Senate race was part of a wider trend. National Republican chairman Mehlman's top-down effort to broaden the party's base with African-American voters fell short every place it was tried. The Baltimore-area native, who passed up a chance to cash in after helping Bush win re-election in 2004, might want to join the private sector before it's too late.

Winner: Arnold Schwarzenegger - The governator showed Republicans how to get re-elected in a blue state, California. His formula: listen to the voters, dump the right-wing consultants and cut deals with the Democratic legislature. If his counterpart in Annapolis had gone that route, he might have avoided his fate as the only Republican incumbent governor who lost.

Loser: John Kerry - He traveled to 35 states, gave away $14 million to fellow Democrats and was starting to get some positive buzz for his '08 presidential comeback bid. Then, with one ill-timed blunder, he reminded Democrats why they might not want to reconsider him in the first place.

Winner: Mitt Romney - The breathtaking collapse of Republican Sen. George Allen's presidential hopes has made the outgoing Massachusetts governor the darling of his party's Anybody-But-McCain faction. The first debate and straw vote of the '08 campaign are only six months away.

Losers: Moderate Republicans - This fast-disappearing species in Congress is more endangered than ever, with the defeat of veterans such as Reps. Nancy L. Johnson of Connecticut and Jim Leach of Iowa and Sens. Mike DeWine of Ohio and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. The survivors, including Reps. Wayne T. Gilchrest of Maryland, Christopher Shays of Connecticut and Michael N. Castle of Delaware, might find themselves more in demand than ever.

Winners: Moderate Democrats - Relatively small in number but growing as a result of victories this week, the centrists - fewer than 40 of about 230 Democrats in the new House - will exercise outsized clout in a closely divided Congress. But their refusal to go along with left-wingers in the House Democratic caucus could give Speaker Pelosi fits and make party unity tough to come by.

paul.west@baltsun.com

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