When the American public went to the polls, they did more than vote. They signaled a desire for a change of direction.
Since then, every pundit, biased as they all are (and yes, that includes me), has had his or her own spin.
But I may surprise you with my spin: I am quite pleased.
Let's face it, the Republicans needed a bit of a kick in the pants, albeit a soft one. Federal spending on discretionary programs has been growing at rates unseen since the days of LBJ.
And the Republicans' strongest card – keeping America safe since Sept. 11th – was never clearly articulated nationally. Go figure.
I have long been a critic of the Iraq war, and predicted some time ago that America would drift into a quagmire unless a clear exit strategy was formulated. Today that is generally accepted wisdom in both parties. Still, I do not believe the election was a referendum on the Iraq war, as some on the left have argued.
More complicated matters were at work: high gas prices, a flattening economy, weariness with the Hastert Republicans, anger at President Bush and the Iraq war.
The results that gave the Democrats a 29-vote majority in the House – with several races still undecided – and a 1-vote majority in the Senate, have to send a clear signal to the GOP leadership: Clean house and go back to your roots. By roots I mean Ronald Reagan roots: limited government, respect for civil liberties, strong national defense, and global leadership by example, not dictate.
If that happens, the Republicans could turn out to be the big winners in ‘08 with a trifecta: regaining the House, the Senate and even the White House for another four years.
Here's my take on the other big winners from Election Day:
Joe Lieberman. I was honored to join Sen. Lieberman and his wife Hadassah for their election night celebration in Hartford, Connecticut.
Joe Lieberman is an exemplary individual and public servant. The Democratic Party and the country are going to be well served by this newborn "independent" fighting in the U.S. Senate for the values that make America a better, safer place.
Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist. His name has not been mentioned much, but Jeb gets significant credit for keeping Florida's governorship in Republican hands in a bad year for the GOP.
Though he's been a lame duck governor these past four years, Jeb has been working tirelessly to have a Republican succeed him in Tallahassee. He also has continued to have great approval ratings.
Florida's Attorney General Charlie Crist was a remarkable candidate who had relatively smooth sailing riding Jeb's coattails. Crist beat his Democrat rival by a 52 to 46 percent margin. This win may be a good omen for '08 in this hugely important swing state. My hat is off to both Jeb and Charlie.
Schwarzenegger. In this election, Arnold proved to be the comeback kid. Just last year, the Terminator lost a series of referenda that included limits on state spending and restrictions on fund-raising by public employee unions. He seemingly placed his political future on them and lost. Schwarzenegger's job approval rating dipped below 40 percent for much of last year and well into 2006.
But Republican Schwarzenegger won in this very blue state by a huge margin of 56 to 39 percent. If Arnold did not have a constitutional prohibition, he'd be a top contender for the White House. Even still, he will be a player in national politics and courted for his presidential endorsement. Is Governor Maria far behind?
Hillary. Oh, how can I forget? Hillary Clinton is a very big winner. She spent some $30 million in a race that was faintly challenged by the GOP – and she won with 67 percent of the vote. That's up 12 percentage points from her 2000 victory.
Hillary comes out of 2006 strong because she increased her vote draw and did well in Republican areas of New York. She will set her sights directly on the White House. Her biggest obstacle? Fellow Democrats of the Howard Dean-MoveOn.org wing of the party don't like Hillary and don't like the fact she is a Johnny-come-lately to criticizing Bush's Iraq policy.
To win the presidency, Hillary should read "Joe Lieberman" above and learn a lesson on how to be authentic.
And what about the losers? There's not enough room here to expand on that list.
But I do believe the country lost some tremendous public servants in the anti-Republicans tide. Hopefully, this loss will be temporary and we'll see these folks again, among them: Dick DeVos, who ran a spirited campaign in Michigan, Sen. Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania and Sen. George Allen in Virginia.
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