Pols Disagree on Incumbent Losses
Wednesday, August 9, 2006; 10:26 PM
WASHINGTON -- Republican, Democrat. House, Senate. White, black. The moderates fared worst. But primary voters did not discriminate Tuesday night, dispensing defeat to Sen. Joe Lieberman and two House members in an unusually strong, single-night repudiation of incumbents.
"The winds of change are blowing," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, an Illinois Democrat.
"I don't see it as an anti-incumbent move," said Vice President Dick Cheney, adding that the night's two other lawmaker-losers, Reps. Joe Schwarz, R-Mich., and Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., don't involve "national ramifications."
Schwarz and Lieberman shared a connection, though, and it crossed party lines.
Both are moderates in their parties who sought to survive in an era of intense political division. Both were targeted for defeat by activist groups from outside their states, and both fell to rivals offering a harder edge.
For her part, McKinney suffered her second primary defeat in four years in a roller-coaster career marked by incendiary public comments and confrontations. In June, she apologized to the House after scuffling with a Capitol police officer. Both she and her rival, Hank Johnson, are black, as are a majority of the voters in their district.
Overall, the polls suggest incumbents have more reason to be concerned than they have in recent campaigns.
A Washington Post-ABC News survey this month showed an anti-incumbent mood akin to 1994, when a landslide swept Democrats from power and ushered in an era of Republican control in Congress. In the survey, 53 percent described their mood as anti-incumbent, only 29 percent said they were pro-incumbent. In June 1994, the result was 54-29 percent.
Paradoxically, 55 percent of those polled said they approved of the way their own representative was doing his job, with 37 percent disapproving. That marks a decline from the levels regularly recorded in the late 1990s, although it still leaves individual lawmakers with better grades than the 51-38 percent rating of 1994.
Democrats and Republicans both focused on Ned Lamont's victory over Lieberman in claiming a clamor for change would benefit their own campaigns this fall.
"The perception was that (Lieberman) was too close to George Bush and this was, in many respects, a referendum on the president more than anything else," said Sens. Harry Reid of Nevada and Chuck Schumer of New York, the party's leader and the head of its Senate campaign committee.
Republicans said Democrats had it exactly backward.