Still crazy after all these years.

Notes from the political sidelines.
Nov. 10 2006 12:52 PM

Still Crazy After All These Years

The nuttiest congressional district in America keeps its reputation intact.

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As someone who worked in a White House that grieved over the loss of Congress, I feel Bush's pain—although, admittedly, not as much as I enjoy it. The president watched a number of friends fall on the political battlefield on Tuesday, many solely because of their ties to him. For many of them, their political careers are over—and his will be soon, too. There's not much he can do to make it up to them.

When Democrats lost Congress in 1994, we were able to channel our grief and frustration into finishing the job we had come there to do and helping the Democratic Party recover to fight another day. Within a year, Clinton had knocked Republicans back on their heels. A year after that, he became the first Democratic president to be re-elected since FDR. And in both 1996 and 1998, Democrats made back a good deal of lost ground. By 2000, with a strong economy and a winning governing formula, the majority was ours to lose—which Democrats promptly did.

It's too late in Bush's presidency for such a rebound. Instead, all his options look like Iraq, trying to keep things from going from bad to worse.

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Considering all that's on the president's shoulders, we should give him the space to grieve. With only two years left in his presidency, it doesn't matter how Bush feels about do-overs. He doesn't get one. ... 4:59 P.M. (link)

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Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2006

The Botcher-in-Chief: While a majority in the Senate may hang on recounting Jim Webb's victory in Virginia, the worst numbers for Republicans are not subject to recount. National exit polls provide graphic detail of what happened Tuesday to Karl Rove's dream of a Republican majority: The middle fell out.

In 2004, the GOP had the Democratic Party on the ropes. Democrats lost people over 30, high-school grads, college grads, and voters in every income category over $30,000. The Democratic coalition was down to two groups with nothing else in common: dropouts and post-docs.

What a difference two years make. In 2006, Democrats won or tied every age group, every education level, and every income group below $100,000. Nearly half the electorate identified themselves as moderates, and Democrats won them by a whopping 61 percent to 38 percent. After a long, six-year vacation, the voting bloc Democrats have always needed to be a majority party—the middle class—finally came home.

That translates into roughly a 53 percent to 45 percent margin in the national vote. As Speaker-in-waiting Nancy Pelosi and her colleagues must have thought waking up this morning—quite a majority, Madam, if we can keep it.

Will Democrats recognize what it takes to hold onto that middle-class majority? Will Republicans recognize that it's gone missing? For both sides, that's harder than it looks, and more important than many on either side will want to admit.

For Democrats, the first crucial step is that while millions of Americans on Tuesday bought a Democratic House (and maybe two), voters bought it on spec. Democrats will need to post two good years—in the Congress and the presidential race—in order to close the deal.

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