Hugh Hewitt makes some great points in this excellent column.
As cooler heads sort through the returns, they will see not a Democratic wave but a long series of bitter fights most of which were lost by very thin margins, the sort of margin that could have been overcome had there been greater purpose and energy arrayed on the GOP’s side. The country did not fundamentally change from 2004, but the Republicans had to defend very difficult terrain in very adverse circumstances. Step by step over the past two years the GOP painted themselves into a corner from which there was no escape. Congressional leadership time and time again took the easy way out and declared truces with Democrats over issues, which ought not to have been compromised. The easy way led to Tuesday’s result.
The criminal activities of Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney and Mark Foley were anchors around every Republican neck, and the damaged leadership could not figure out that the only way to slip that weight was by staying in town and working around the clock on issue after issue. The long recesses and the unwillingness to confront the issues head on –remember the House’s inexplicable refusal to condemn the New York Times by name in a resolution over the SWIFT program leak?– conveyed a smugness about the majority which was rooted in redistricting’s false assurance of invulnerability. Only on rare occasions would the Republicans set up the sort of debate that sharpened the contrast between the parties. In wartime, the public expects much more from its leaders than they received from the GOP.
(The National Review’s Byron York wondered why the president didn’t bring up the judges issue in the campaign until the last week, and then only in Montana. The reason was obvious: Senators DeWine and Chafee were struggling and any focus on the legacy of the Gang of 14 would doom DeWine’s already dwindling chances while reminding the country of the retreat from principal in early ’05.)
Hugh goes on to talk about what can be done in 2008.
It is hard to conceive of how the past two years could have been managed worse on the Hill.
The presidential ambitions of three senators ended Tuesday night, though two of them will not face up to it.
The Republican Party sent them and their 52 colleagues to Washington D.C. to implement an agenda which could have been accomplished but that opportunity was frittered away.
The Republican Party raised the money and staffed the campaigns that had yielded a 55-45 seat majority, and the Republican Party expected the 55 to act like a majority. Confronted with obstruction, the Republicans first fretted and then caved on issue after issue. Had the 55 at least been seen to be trying –hard, and not in a senatorial kind of way– Tuesday would have had a much different result. Independents, especially, might have seen why the majority mattered.
Will the GOP get back to a working majority again? Perhaps. And perhaps sooner than you think. The Democrats have at least six vulnerable senators running in 2008, while the situation looks pretty good for the GOP.
But the majority is not going to return unless the new minority leadership –however it is composed– resolves to persuade the public, and to be firm in its convictions, not concerned for the praise of the Beltway-Manhattan media machine.
Hugh gets into many more specifics and puts quite a bit of blame on McCain for the Senate loss. Read it all — it is excellent analysis, whether you agree with all of it or not.