THIS ONE IS PRETTY EASY TO EXPLAIN. 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.
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.
Barnes also notes that Senator Kyl “may be finest and most able senator in Washington,” which is not only true but also a key observation when it comes to organizing the new Senate. Should Kyl be the GOP’s leader? Senator McConnell is a solid fellow, but Kyl knows how to communicate directly with the public in a way few senators do. A McConnell-Kyl-Thune leadership team would be fine. A Kyl-McConnell-Thune leadership team would be great. John Ensign will run a fine NRSC. Getting the majority back will require a NRSC that learns from its missteps in 2006.
In the House, the early word is Mike Pence is running for Minority Leader, which will be a very good thing, but so should other talented new faces. The party has a couple of months to regroup and hopefully it understand that the single most important talent a Minority Leader must have is the ability to communicate. John Boehner isn’t bad, but there are likely much better voices, and the caucus has to understand that it needs to get the majority back in 24 months, or it could be a long stay in the opposition.