California is an interesting state. We just re-elected Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger 55% to 39%, but also re-elected Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein 60% to 35%. All but one of the remaining state offices went to Democrats (some by larger margins than others).

The Governator is talking about a mandate. Politicians always do that when they win. 55% is a bit shaky, but with ~15 percentage points between him and Angelides, he’s at least more justified in claiming it than a certain Republican winner two years ago who only had a three-point lead.

Meanwhile Congress has returned to its natural state—namely, with at least one house controlled by the party not holding the Presidency—as the Democrats have taken back the House for the first time in 12 years. There’s an analysis in the Los Angeles Times suggesting that the Republicans’ mistake was in focusing too heavily on their base over the last few years and alienating the center.

Schwarzenegger is actually a good example of this. He’s a Republican, but a moderate one. During the 2003 recall election, the Republican party actually ran a second candidate, Tom McClintock, because Arnold wasn’t Republican enough. Admittedly you can chalk some of it up to name recognition and charisma, but the moderate Schwarzenegger not only won the recall handily, he had no problem holding onto the office this year when California voted overwhelmingly for Democrats.

Representative Nancy Pelosi, practically guaranteed to be the next speaker of the House, promised “to lead the most honest, the most open and the most ethical Congress in history” [note: originally linked to Forbes] and run things in a more bipartisan way than the Republicans have for the past 12 years. I’m jaded enough to say I’ll believe it when I see it, but encouraged enough that I think there’s at least a chance they will.

The real shocker, though, is Donald Rumsfeld stepping down as Secretary of Defense. I think it’s long overdue—this administration has generally rewarded loyalty over competence, and I’ll agree with many that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been mismanaged. Here’s hoping Robert Gates, if confirmed, does a better job.

6 thoughts on “Holding the Center

  1. I read in another article that Bush was talking to Gates over the weekend about a possible nomination. Someone suggested it might have been a contingency plan in case the election didn’t go the way they wanted. Someone else suggested it may simply have been a matter of keeping spirits up among Republican voters by keeping the resignation plans secret until after the election.

    My favorite was the remark someone made on Slashdot that it was one heckuva flip-flop.

  2. From what I’ve seen on CNN and MSNBC, a lot of Republicans are furious that Bush didn’t say something about dropping Cheney before the election because they feel they were forced to stand by the war and that dropping Cheney before the election might have signaled a change of direction that would have satisfied enough swing voters to keep them in office.

    I’m pretty sure they’d still have lost if he’d dropped Cheney a week ago. The difference would be that they’d be furious at Bush for showing signs of weakness at the last minute, etc.

  3. Er… you mean Rumsfeld? Or did I miss something?

    Oh, wait. I see you were posting at 1AM your time. No further explanation needed!

    But yeah, I think you’re right: once he decided to drop Rumsfeld, it was a no-win scenario as far as campaign spin.

  4. …which is probably why he dusted off his stand-up comedy routine before the press.

    As far as damage control is concerned, though, I’d say they weathered this “thumpin'” pretty well.

  5. Rumsfeld… Cheney… Potayto… Potahto… Okay, I guess Cheney has better skin, a little less hair on top, a bigger waistline… different letters in his name… different responsibilities… But are there any other distinctions? Well, I suppose Rumsfeld never shot a 60 year old man in the face.

    The thing about Rumsfeld is that hiring him was a huge mistake from the start. The kind that ultimately has a price. Bush only paid it now because it suddenly became even costlier to keep him around.

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