It is a peculiar thing about political reporting that the news media spends almost unlimited space on pre-election blather, who's ahead, who's behind, what will happen. But then, when the election is over, there's precious little space devoted to analysis of the results. Time magazine is a good example. It's post-election issue doesn't even point out new senators, and casts almost the whole election as having impact only on President Bush.
This blog will try to identify some of the big winners and losers, as far as I understand them.
--Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York scored a landslide victory, carrying 62 of 65 countries in New York, including many normally conservative upstate counties. Clinton was a good campaigner in her first race six years ago, but this time, she was really outstanding, developing a sense of humor and command on the stump that bodes well for a Presidential race, if she decides to make one.
--Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut proved the voters do like independence of mind and spirit when he turned the tables on a peace candidate, Ned Lamont, who had defeated him in the primary. Lieberman also emerged as a decisive vote in the Senate, since, if the Democrats were tempted not to allow him to keep his seniority, he could simply cross the aisle and make the Republicans a majority. I gave $200 to the Lieberman campaign and am proud to have done so.
--Gov. Bill Richardson won a landslide victory for reelection as governor of New Mexico, showing that his foreign policy exploits, such as his private visit to North Korea, do not keep him from effectively minding the store at home. Richardson would make an outstanding secretary of state in a Democratic administration after 2008.
--Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois. This former Clinton Administration aide ran the successful Democratic campaigns that led to winning control of the House of Representatives. His performance was so masterful, even President Bush decided he deserved personal congratulations and called him. Emanuel undoubtedly has a very bright future ahead of him.
--Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco. The daughter of a mayor of Baltimore, (and the mother of six), Pelosi, an Italian-American, has politics in her blood, is determined and is capable of learning from mistakes, such as she made soon after the election by unsuccessfully backing her friend, Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania for House Majority Leader.
--Senator-elect Jim Webb of Virginia. A former Secretary of the Navy, Webb's election followed extraordinary lapses of judgment by incumbent Sen. George Allen. Allen started out the race as a prospective candidate for President and ended it identified as a cheap bigot. The Democrat, Webb's victory dignifies Virginia, a state which has an illustrious political history.
--Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California. Schwarzenegger's election as governor in a Recall election could be viewed as a fluke, but his reelection was the result of hard work and a judicious reworking of earlier partisan positions. He is now an established political figure commanding respect across the country, and proves there is a place for moderate Republicanism.
--Eliot Spitzer of New York. Elected governor by a large margin, this Democrat has already had a distinguished career as a prosecutor and New York attorney general. Now, he will have a bigger platform, and his national role may only be enhanced.
--Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi. It's hard to make a comeback after having been forced to resign a leadership position in disgrace, but this Mississippi Republican, who won a fourth term, has now been elected by fellow-Republicans, to the number 2 leadership position in the new Senate minority. He will know better than to ever side with the late Sen. Strom Thurmond again.
--Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. The man who could become the first black President of the United States was not on the ballot, but he greatly fortified his political reputation with his campaigning and fundraising across the country. He has created the kind of inspirational persona which impelled the political careers of John and Robert Kennedy.
--White House aide Karl Rove. Rove pulled the wool over the electorate's eyes in 2004, but he could not do so again. Although he may have been responsible for some scurrilous campaign tactics that worked, such as the racist ad that doomed a good Democratic candidate for the Senate from Tennessee, most of Rove's tactics fell flat this year. He should have quit while he was ahead.
--President George Bush. He should have fired Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and sought new leadership for the war in Iraq well before the election. His failure to do so, or to adopt new, imaginative ways of fighting the war, cost his party Congress and, to say the least, diminished his reputation. He now increasingly seems a lame duck.
--Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. He was not on the ballot this year, but he made one of the biggest gaffes of the year when he denigrated U.S. troops in Iraq. I believe his presidential aspirations will come to be regarded as terminated by this episode.
--Phil Angelides. The California state treasurer proved a very poor candidate for governor of California. Angelides disgraced himself in the primary by his demagogic tactics against State Controller Steve Westly and could never redeem himself after. His political career is over. That California Democrats could not put up a stronger candidate does not speak well for the party leadership.
--Rep. Katherine Harris of Florida and Secretary of State Ken Blackwell of Ohio. They paid the price for earlier fostering of corrupt election practices in the 2000 and 2004 elections, both going down to one-sided defeats in races for the U.S. Senate and the Ohio governorship.
--L.A. Times publisher David Hiller. By firing the highly-respected editor, Dean Baquet, which was made known on election day, Hiller verified himself to be both very dumb and a low, venal character. He may never recover whatever reputation he had and, by using the cover of the election for his foul deed, emerged as the disgrace of the day.