Democratic House victory a blow to Bush

Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, and various scandals plague Republican administration; Democrats edge toward erasing Republican Senate majority.

bush sad 88 (photo credit: )
bush sad 88
(photo credit: )
As Democrats seized control of the House of Representatives on Tuesday night by winning more than 20 seats, President George W. Bush monitored the returns from the White House. "They have not gone the way he would have liked," press secretary Tony Snow said of the election returns. Under a Democratic House, Bush faces the prospect of stalemate in the final two years of his presidency, with newly empowered Democratic lawmakers likely to investigate his administration and block his conservative political agenda. If the battle for House control was settled, however, not so the Senate struggle. Democrats captured four of the six Republican Senate seats they needed to take control of the Senate, winning critical contests in Ohio, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Missouri and inching closer Wednesday to erasing the Republican majority. That left two races - Virginia and Montana - unsettled, and Democrats needed to win all of them to complete their sweep of Congress. Just two years after Bush was re-elected by a comfortable margin, Democrats made his low popularity the focus of their campaigns in the wake of the never-ending bloodshed in Iraq, his administration's bungled response to Hurricane Katrina and scandals that have forced the resignations of powerful Republican lawmakers. Some Republicans tried to distance themselves from Bush. In surveys at polling places, about six in 10 voters said they disapproved of the way Bush is handling his job, and roughly the same percentage opposed the war in Iraq. They were more inclined to vote for Democratic candidates than for Republicans. In even larger numbers, about three-quarters of voters said scandals mattered to them in deciding how to vote, and they, too, were more likely to side with Democrats. The surveys were taken by The Associated Press and television networks. Surveys of voters at their polling places nationwide suggested Democrats were winning the support of independents by a margin of almost 2-to-1, and middle-class voters were leaving Republicans behind. Though glitches were reported in several states, the Justice Department said polling complaints were down slightly from 2004 by early afternoon. In addition to the congressional and gubernatorial races, voters also filled state legislative seats and decided hundreds of statewide ballot initiatives on such contentious social issues as banning gay marriage, limiting abortion, controlling illegal immigrants and making English an official language. In one of the most high-profile measures, voters in South Dakota rejected a toughest-in-the-nation law that would have banned virtually all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. In some key gubernatorial races, Rep. Ted Strickland defeated Republican Ken Blackwell with ease to become Ohio's first Democratic governor in 16 years. Deval Patrick triumphed over Republican Kerry Healey in Massachusetts, and will become the state's first black chief executive. Democrat Eliot Spitzer, the attorney general who fought for Wall Street and corporate reform, was elected New York State governor. Charlie Crist was a bright spot for Republicans, keeping the Florida governorship now held by Bush's brother Jeb in Republican hands. Some of America's biggest political stars were on the ballot. In New York, Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton easily won reelection, boosting her prospects of winning her party's nomination for the 2008 presidential election. In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the film star, also won re-election. Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic candidate for vice president in 2000, won re-election as an independent. Lieberman, who supported the Iraq war, lost the Democratic nomination to an anti-war candidate, Ned Lamont. He will side with Democrats when he returns to Washington. Bush campaigned energetically to keep his party in power in Congress, primarily by raising money for Republican candidates. He brought in $193 million (€151.3 million) at about 90 fundraisers. One of the most closely watched Senate races was in Virginia, where Republican Sen. George Allen and Democratic challenger Jim Webb were locked in a tight battle, neither man able to break clear of the other as the vote count mounted. Scandal complicated the campaign for Republicans, from the months-long corruption investigation spawned by lobbyist Jack Abramoff to the revelation that former Rep. Mark Foley had sent sexually explicit computer messages to teenage congressional aides. History worked against the Republicans, too. Since World War II, the party in control of the White House has lost an average 31 House seats and six Senate seats in the second midterm election of a president's tenure in office. Inevitably, the stirrings of the next campaign were visible in this one. Sen. John McCain of Arizona traveled widely, seeking a head start among Republicans looking at the 2008 presidential race. Democratic Sen. Barack Obama did likewise and recently said he was thinking of running in two years. And Hillary Clinton's name persistently came up as a possible 2008 Democratic candidate.