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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Japan Today - News - Democrats hope Republican defeats a good omen for future elections - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Democrats hope Republican defeats a good omen for future elections - Japan's Leading International News Networkjapantoday > world
Democrats hope Republican defeats a good omen for future elections

Thursday, November 10, 2005 at 08:01 JST
WASHINGTON — Long-suffering Democrats hoping to retake control of the U.S. government glimpsed the beginnings of a possible comeback, after major defeats for Republicans in election contests across the United States on Tuesday.

Republicans on Tuesday lost two key elections in New Jersey and Virginia, while California's action-hero-turned-Republican Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger suffered a stinging repudiation at the polls, failing to win approval for any of four referendum measures he proposed.


The setbacks are viewed as a bad omen for President George W Bush's floundering party with national balloting looming next year and in 2008 — and consequently a hopeful sign for opposition Democrats eager to reclaim the White House and Congress.

In the days before the voting, Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean said he felt a sea change coming as voters tire of the scandal-plagued Republican administration.

"Whether it's the string of arrests and indictments of corrupt Republican leaders or their pandering to extremist ideologues, America cannot afford to be in this situation," Dean said in an exhortation to fellow party members.

"We need fundamental change in Washington to hold this administration accountable and begin doing the work to solve real problems. It's our responsibility to create that change by electing Democrats," he said.

Until just recently, Democrats showed little sign of being able to capitalize on Republican misfortunes.

But just last week the opposition party put on a more combative face, forcing the Senate into a surprise closed-door session to debate Iraq war intelligence, and leaving Republicans sputtering in disapproval.

And on Tuesday, election day, they threw down the gauntlet again, demanding that Vice President Dick Cheney clean house in the wake of his top aide Scooter Libby's recent criminal indictment, while insisting that Libby not be granted a presidential pardon if convicted.

The Democrats' restored vigor signaled a renewed effort to present themselves to voters as a viable alternative in advance of national midterm elections next year and presidential polls in 2008.

"Enough is enough," said Dean. "We're ready to lead."

The Republican Party's biggest rising star, Schwarzenegger, took perhaps the hardest fall on Tuesday as voters rejected a slate of four referendum measures on which he had staked his reputation.

It was a stinging defeat for the populist Hollywood hero, 58, who swept to power in a landslide recall election two years ago and who faces a re-election challenge in just 12 months.

California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said the vote represented a repudiation of Schwarzenegger's policies.

"The election results should send a strong message that the voters are tired of having issues that should be solved by their representatives placed before them on the ballot," she said.

Only Republican New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg kept up party honor, winning a new term after digging deep into his large personal fortune. His victory was all the more impressive considering the fact that Democrats in the city outnumber Republicans five to one.

But the party that governs the White House, the Senate and House of Representatives had little else to show for itself.

Republicans were worst hit by their gubernatorial defeat in the conservative state of Virginia, where Democrat Tim Kaine eked out a narrow win over Republican challenger Jerry Kilgore.

The loss was all the worse because Bush personally stumped for Kilgore in the waning hours of the campaign — a sign perhaps of the president's diminished clout as he remains bedeviled by the lowest opinion ratings of his presidency.

The Washington Post said the campaign, marked by bitter, negative Republican tactics, could provide "political lessons" for Democrats nationwide ahead of elections next year.

Meanwhile, Democrat Jon Corzine won the race for governor of New Jersey after another campaign that turned nasty in its closing stages. Corzine beat his Republican rival Douglas Forrester by 54% to 43%.

Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman explained away the defeats, saying Republicans always faced a "difficult road" in the two states, both which were led by Democratic incumbents.

He hailed Bloomberg's thrashing of Democratic challenger Fernando Ferrer by a margin of 57% to 41%.

"Michael Bloomberg is the kind of leader Republicans are proud to support," Mehlman said, glossing over the fact that liberal Bloomberg is often at odds with the party's conservative leadership.

The Republican setbacks accented the concerns spreading throughout the party. Earlier this month the Republican governor of Minnesota declared that his party was "on the ropes" while fretting that he would be "lucky to get re-elected." (Wire reports)

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