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The November Showdown

Saturday, May 20, 2006  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The Washington Post has now caught up with Painting the Map Red, with the paper reporting on its front page that the House of Representatives could in fact see a Democratic majority when the smoke clears in November.

But while there remain very troubling signs for the GOP in both House and Senate —my World column this week addresses the split among conservative pundits, for example,— the debate over immigration and border security this week was a significant plus for the GOP. That debate demonstrated that there is a serious commitment to border security within the GOP and that the opposition to border security is at home in the Democratic Party.

Similarly, the party with a caucus that genuinely worries about assimilation is the GOP. The Democrats found it necessary to water down an already almost wholly rhetorical “English-first” amendment.

“Painting the Map Red” warned the GOP that it had to handle the immigration/border security issue very carefully so as to remain a party thatwelcomes Latino voters, and it has done that this week, while at the same time delivering on border security and common sense restraints on new immigration flows. (Only the vote on social security benefits went the wrong way, but the conference can fix that.)

This was also the week that saw the sixth straight year of tax cuts pass, and two of the promised new federal circuit court nominees emerge from the White House, and promises renewed of the next seven or eight to follow. The Marriage Amendment moved out of the Judiciary Committee on its way to a vote on cloture in early June that will put all senators on record as for or against the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, the Iraq government emerged, and, most important of all, the growing recognition that the Iranian Crisis can not —despite the heartfelt wishes of some— be talked away.

The angry chorus of disaffected conservatives may also have hit their loudest notes this week, and the publication of this handy chart, with its reminders of a Chairman Conyers, Chairman Rangel, Chairman Frank, Chairman Murtha, and Chairman McDermott as well as Speaker Pelosi, may have actually been the most important piece of web-produced polemic in this cycle.

There was a disapppointment in Florida, as many had believed Alan Bense would enter the race against Bill Nelson, and now that red state’s blue senate seat looks very safe.

But the votes of Maria Cantwell in Washington State and Robert Menedez in New Jersey againt fencing 20% of the border and against declaring English as the official language made both of those races very competitive, and incumbent GOP senators in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri and Montana can take the reality of their party’s much tougher positions on security to their voters in the fall.

The competitive House races identified by the Post as well as others in which Dems are imperiled will be fought out on very small fields, but the big nine senate races are these:

New Jersey: Incumbent Democrat Menedez v. the GOP’s Tom Kean.

Maryland: The GOP’s Lt. Governor Michael Steele v. the battered winner of the Mfume-Cardin slug fest.

Pennsylvania: GOP Incumbent Rick Santorum against Bob Casey Jr.

Ohio: GOP Incumbent Mike DeWine v. Congressman Sherrod Brown

Missouri: GOP Incumbent Jim Talent v. Claire McCaskill

Montana: GOP Incumbent Conrad Burns v. either John Morrison and Jon Tester.

Minnesota: GOP Congressman Mark Kennedy v. Amy Klobuchar

Nebraska: Pete Ricketts v. Democratic incumbent Ben Nelson

Washington State: Mike McGavick v. Democratic incumbent Maria Cantwell

With the right campaigns, adequate funding, and continued focus on the deep differences between the parties on the war, judges, taxes, spending and the border, the Senate could return in ’07 strengthened, not depleted.

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