Thursday, November 09, 2006

Anchors away 

Remember about ten days ago, when the New York Times ran an article on how the new Democrats on the verge of pushing the Democrats back into power were more conservative than the ones who left? Such news did not make the Left very happy.

So what kind of Democrats are these newbies? The WSJ over the weekend ran a front-page story (subscriber link) highlighting twelve races divided in four types:
  1. Military wing: Joe Sestak (PA-7), Chris Carney (PA-10) and Jim Webb. All three of these races went for the Democrats. Experienced military Democrats who could play up that potential did well, but not consistently, the Journal reports:
    Mr. Carney helped shape the Bush administration's controversial pre-war intelligence as a Pentagon adviser and still defends the invasion of Iraq over suspected links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Mr. Sestak has staked out a position on Iraq that even party leaders consider too dangerously liberal -- a hard one-year deadline for troop withdrawal.

  2. Rural and social conservatives: Jon Tester, Bob Casey Jr., Mike Weaver (KY-02). Weaver lost, but you can point to others such as Heath Shuler who won. Laura Ingraham brought this up on her show Wednesday: How can the elections be a rejection of conservatism when a Shuler wins? Mitch and I argued this as well for Michele Bachmann during the election coverage on Saturday, who was never bashful about her conservative roots.

  3. The Pro-Business Candidates and Fiscal Conservatives Gabrielle Giffords (AZ-8), Tim Mahoney (FL-16) and Brad Ellsworth (IN-8). All winners, though in Mahoney's case it was for the Mark Foley seat, and in Ellsworth's case it was against anti-Iraq Republican incumbent John Hostettler. Oddly enough, you tend to think of those as Republicans like Gil Gutknecht -- more on that in a minute -- but that the tag could be applied to Democrats is a sign of what's gone wrong with Republicans. Nevertheless, I don't think this category went the way the Journal presented it.

  4. The Clean-Up Crew. Tim Walz (MN-1), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY-20) and Mary Jo Kilroy (OH-15). Kilroy lost and I don't know anything about Gillibrand. But consider this presentation of Walz' ethics credentials:
    Tim Walz ... backs a ban on privately funded congressional trips, which won't sit well with some long-serving lawmakers. He also proposes a strengthened House ethics committee. He and other would-be members of the Class of 2006 will have allies among activists who have lent their support online: the "crashing-the-gate" crowd, as he calls them. "They're expecting us to be a speak up for real reform," Walz says.
    My cohost Michael Brodkorb liked to say all fall that "the only thing conservative about Tim Walz is his haircut," but that message apparently resonated in the district, even if Gutknecht did nothing unethical to stand out as a target for Walz. His target was all of Congress, of which Gutknecht was simply a foil.
In that sense, what Hugh said here was right:
The criminal activities of Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney and Mark Foley were anchors around every Republican neck, and the damaged leadership could not figure out that the only way to slip that weight was by staying in town and working around the clock on issue after issue. The long recesses and the unwillingness to confront the issues head on --remember the House's inexplicable refusal to condemn the New York Times by name in a resolution over the SWIFT program leak?-- conveyed a smugness about the majority which was rooted in redistricting's false assurance of invulnerability. Only on rare occasions would the Republicans set up the sort of debate that sharpened the contrast between the parties. In wartime, the public expects much more from its leaders than they received from the GOP.
What will the Democrats use for an anchor around Republican necks next time? Because that ploy will work only when you're the party out of power.