Before we color in our 50-state maps with indelible red and blue ink, let us pause to remember one easily overlooked lesson from last week's elections: Democrats still get elected statewide in the reddest of states, and Republicans thrive in the bluest of the blue, especially when it comes to governors.
So what if John F. Kerry beat President Bush by 3 to 2 in Vermont? Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican, coasted to reelection by nearly the same ratio. How about Montana, where Bush racked up 59 percent of the vote? No problem for Brian Schweitzer, the Democrat who won the open seat for governor by four percentage points.
And North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley (D) comfortably won reelection on the day that Bush swept his state and Democrats lost a Senate race they once thought was theirs.
The trend is hardly new, but it is worth noting amid post-election punditry that suggests there are unbridgeable chasms between red and blue states. A GOP presidential nominee hardly sets foot in California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland or New York, but those states have Republican governors. Democratic presidential hopefuls would be wasting their time in Virginia, Oklahoma and Wyoming, but these red states have blue governors.
Are there lessons here for southern Democrats, now nearly extinct in the U.S. Senate, where they will hold but four of the old Confederacy's 22 seats? Can Senate candidates mold themselves after Mike Easley and Mark Warner or the Democrats who won gubernatorial races not terribly long ago in Mississippi and Alabama?
Probably not, says Gary Jacobson, a political scientist at the University of California at San Diego. Senate candidates, he said, "are expected to be national policymakers," inevitably associated with their party's national agenda and leaders (read "Massachusetts liberal" this year). Democratic candidates for governor, he said, "don't have to appeal to a national Democratic audience."
Reagan Gets His 60 Minutes
Conservatives still sporting those "Rather Biased" bumper stickers may want to reconsider. CBS News, vilified by Republicans this fall for relying on apparently bogus documents that questioned President Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard, has issued a book that practically gushes about GOP icon Ronald Reagan.
The author of "Ronald Reagan Remembered" (Simon & Schuster) is listed as "CBS News," and the book features laudatory essays from Dan Rather and other stars of "60 Minutes." That's the program that aired the Sept. 8 report challenging the president's military record based on hoary-looking memos that turned out to be highly questionable. Furious conservatives called for Rather's resignation, and the anchorman publicly apologized for the report 12 days later.
CBS says the book was launched shortly after Reagan's death on June 5, so it's not a kiss-and-make-up response to the September fiasco. Readers, however, might conclude it serves the purpose nonetheless.
"Rather, Mike Wallace and Lesley Stahl share the memories and moments of Reagan's life that will stay with them forever," says a news release hawking the book. It quotes Rather as saying, "We may now be able to appreciate, in a way that we could not at the end of his second term, just how completely Ronald Reagan embodied what is called 'the American Century.' " Stahl writes: "I can tell you firsthand that his 'likeability' was a mighty force."
The Claque, the Clique and the Click
Louisiana's two senators have plenty of issues to tackle together in the next Congress, including the state's coastal erosion and unfinished Interstate 49. But they are not off to a great start.
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu telephoned Republican Rep. David Vitter about midnight Tuesday, when election returns showed him winning the contest to succeed retiring Sen. John Breaux (D). According to the Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge, Landrieu said the senator-elect hung up on her.
"I did contact David Vitter to congratulate him," she told the paper. "He responded in not the most pleasant way and then there was a click."
Vitter denied hanging up on Landrieu. His aides said Landrieu had called to say Democrats were not conceding the race until all precincts were counted. During the campaign, Landrieu and Breaux had endorsed Democratic Rep. Chris John, and Landrieu called Vitter "a puppet" for siding with Congress's GOP leadership so often.
By week's end, the two vowed to try to get along.
Pay as You Go -- Away
Politics were a poor investment this year for the nearly two dozen congressional candidates who tried to pay their own way.
The Center for Responsive Politics identified 22 House and Senate candidates who spent at least $1 million of their own money on their campaigns. Only eight made it past the primaries, and just one, Michael McCaul (R), a House candidate from Texas, was elected.
The self-funders were led by Democrat Blair Hull, who spent more than $28 million on his bid to succeed retiring Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.). Hull's primary campaign sank under allegations of abusive behavior from his ex-wife. Second place went to Douglas Gallagher, a Republican who spent $6.5 million on his primary campaign to succeed retiring Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.). Mel R. Martinez (R) won that race.
Political researcher Brian Faler contributed to this report.