The Midterm Elections

The Blame Game, George Allen, and More
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Nov. 3 2006 5:19 PM

The Midterm Elections


Dear Mark,

OK, I sense from your tone, and from my own anxiety level, that we are entering the speed round as Election Day nears. Thanks for your incisive answers to my questions and the new ones you sent me.


New socks and shoes for the kids is an excellent idea. And avoiding an overtime contest is a national imperative. A just God will not allow it.

I aim to be equally efficient in answering your questions.

1. The blame game: If the GOP loses one or both chambers, Karl Rove will be highly visible, not blaming anyone, but proudly announcing that Republicans beat historical averages in lost seats for an incumbent party in the sixth year of an administration. If Hastert is blaming anyone, no one will hear it. I assume he will be out, Newt Gingrich-style, if Republicans lose the House. Rush Limbaugh may well blame you.

2. I may have Tom Edsall's new e-mail address somewhere. But I think it would be easier for you to tell him yourself directly next time you do the Hugh Hewitt show.

3. A George Allen loss would be blamed by his team on "the bad climate" and the Iraq war. He would pivot instantly to a run for Virginia governor in 2009. His Democratic opponent would be former Gov. and presidential candidate Mark Warner. A Menendez loss will be blamed by everyone, possibly including Menendez himself, on Gov. Jon Corzine, who made the decision to name him as his replacement to the Senate. Second-guessers will say he should have named Rep. Rush Holt, who, like me, is an alumnus of Carleton College and, unlike me, is a champion on Jeopardy!

4. As far as Rahm Emanuel profiles, no doubt there will be (another) one. Executive Editor Len Downie asked me about this just the other day. The lede will involve profanity and ballet, like all Rahm profiles. I believe Rahm is deserving of profiles for his efforts this election cycle, if they prove successful. The guy has moxie and smarts. I think people tend to know about the first, but don't give enough credit to the latter.

5. The Post's coverage will be extensive this weekend, as you can easily imagine. David Broder and Dan Balz will be reprising a classic—the 50 State Roundup, updating the state of play of all competitive races around the country—in Sunday's paper. The Outlook section will feature another hardy perennial, the Crystal Ball Competition, in which various Washington pundits offer their predictions (as of Oct. 27) about what will happen on Tuesday. The first Crystal Ball competition was held in 1982, and there has been one every two years since. This year, Outlook editor Susan Glasser, making her own nod to Jeopardy!, has asked all the previous winners to compete in a Tournament of Champions. The predictions will be accompanied by an essay on the nature of conventional wisdom, political predictions, and what Arthur Schlesinger Jr. calls "the inscrutability of history." That essay will be written by your co-author of The Way To Win.

Best of luck on George's show on Sunday, and if you have a chance to mention a certain book on modern politics, do not hesitate. Since you are too modest to mention it yourself, I should tell our Slate audience that you also are scheduled to be on TheColbert Report next Monday.

If you get a spare moment, please send more questions and e-mails, and in the meantime, best of luck trying to avoid more confrontations with freak shows on left and right.

John Harris



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