"Dozens of too-close-to-call House and Senate races finished on a surly tone, as the traditional political strategy of shifting to a positive message at campaign's end gave way this year to a calculation that the best chance to tip the balance was through continued attacks over personal character and alleged corruption," the Washington Post reported in a front-page Election Day story. -- Prediction of results varied as "[a] series of public polls released over the past few days offers contradictory findings about the public's views nationally and in many key races, confounding strategists in both parties" in an election dominated by national security and the Iraq war. -- Though it hasn't been mentioned very often by the mainstream media, the Iraq war figures directly on the ballot in a number of communities in Massachusetts, Illinois, and Wisconsin, AP reported on Oct. 25. -- But rare is the Democractic candidate who takes an outright antiwar position, a fact that disgusted commentator Joshua Frank, author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush. -- "It seems like 2004 all over again. . . . Every election season is the same. In order to get what we want, we have to vote for what we don't want. Well, that kind of thinking will never end a war." ...
ANGRY CAMPAIGNS END ON AN ANGRIER NOTE
By Jim VandeHei and Dan Balz
** Iraq War Remains Paramount Issue as Voters Go to Polls **
November 7, 2006
As the 2006 campaign staggered to an angry close, national security and the Iraq war dominated the final-day debate of midterm elections in which national themes, not simply local choices, have framed the most competitive races. Democrats said a vote for them would force change in Iraq strategy, while President Bush led the GOP charge in warning that the opposition party cannot be trusted in a time of war.
Dozens of too-close-to-call House and Senate races finished on a surly tone, as the traditional political strategy of shifting to a positive message at campaign's end gave way this year to a calculation that the best chance to tip the balance was through continued attacks over personal character and alleged corruption.
But strategists on both sides said yesterday that national security broadly -- and Iraq specifically -- are likely to determine control of Congress today. Unlike in the 2002 and 2004 elections, when Republicans held a decisive edge on national security, polls over the past year have shown the public losing faith in the war and the GOP, and Democratic candidates nationwide were using their last TV advertising dollars on spots critical of Iraq policy.
"I think, frankly, people don't believe the president anymore" when it comes to the war, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, echoing other party leaders, said in an interview. "We are telling people if they want to stay the course, vote Republican. If you want a change of direction, vote Democrat."
Bush, however, was betting that the Republican Party's historic advantage with voters in times when security issues are prominent will pay dividends again. "As you go to the polls, remember we're at war," he told thousands of GOP supporters in Pensacola, Fla. "And if you want this country to do everything in its power to protect you and at the same time lay a foundation for peace for generations to come, vote Republican."
Democrats confidently predicted that they will win control of the House and trim if not topple the GOP's Senate majority. Republican operatives, however, said there is mounting evidence that fears about the nuclear threats in Iran and North Korea, coupled with more generalized doubts about Democratic competence and fortitude on national security, have provided GOP candidates with much-needed momentum in the final days. GOP tracking polls, these strategists said, have shown a slight but steady uptick since Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), in what he called a botched joke, suggested that uneducated people end up fighting in Iraq -- a comment that infuriated top Democrats despite the 2004 presidential nominee's repeated apologies and explanations.
"All of those things remind people we are at war and the importance of the national security issue," said Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee.
There are more than two dozen House races and at least five Senate contests that both sides considered too close to call heading into Election Day. A series of public polls released over the past few days offers contradictory findings about the public's views nationally and in many key races, confounding strategists in both parties. Some surveys show Republicans gaining on the generic question of whom respondents plan to vote for, while others suggest that Democrats are pulling away. The most recent, from CNN, showed Democrats with a 20-point advantage on the generic ballot question, which asks people which party they prefer but does not offer a choice between specific candidates.
Whether Republicans will succumb to adverse trends or manage to at least partly blunt them will determine whether Democrats can win back the House or Senate or both -- all scenarios that could dramatically change the trajectory of Bush's final two years in office.
Regardless of the margins, officials in both parties are planning for the stiffest challenge yet to Bush's war policy when Congress returns for its lame-duck session next week. Lawmakers are also bracing for GOP leadership changes in the House and Senate and a new policy agenda that is not dictated by the White House. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), a leader of House conservatives, has told colleagues that he plans to seek a top leadership position, congressional aides said.
Democrats, who lost control of the House in 1994, need a net gain of 15 seats to win it back. Republicans generally agree that the opposition is on track to do that, but they hold out hope that a superior voter-turnout effort will tip just enough races to preserve the narrowest of House majorities.
A top GOP strategist said yesterday that several GOP House members who appeared safe one month ago -- including Reps. Charles Bass (N.H.) and Melissa Hart (Pa.) -- are in serious jeopardy. If Bass and Hart lose, it could signal mass casualties for the GOP, other strategists say.
Senior strategists in both parties said the GOP is virtually certain to lose 10 seats, mostly because of a variety of scandals. If these projections are correct, Republicans would have to win more than three-quarters of the 30 or so races that were tied heading into the final weekend.
Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, who released a survey of 50 districts yesterday showing Democrats up 49 percent to 44 percent, said Republicans have closed the gap slightly, but not enough to save their majority. "I don't see any evidence of anything but a minor pushback of getting some of the most partisan Republicans re-engaged," Greenberg said. Using his poll, he predicted Democrats will win 30 to 35 seats "as a conservative estimate."
It will be much harder for Democrats to pick up the six seats needed to control the Senate. GOP Sens. Mike DeWine (Ohio) and Rick Santorum (Pa.) are far behind in state-based polling, but Republicans have a shot at winning the five other targeted GOP seats: in Missouri, Montana, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia. Republicans also have a chance to pick up Democratic seats in Maryland and New Jersey, though both are uphill efforts.
Three premier contests -- Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia -- have been in the tossup category for several weeks. Republicans said yesterday that they think Tennessee is the most likely of the three to remain in their hands. Democrats said a big turnout among black voters is Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr.'s best chance for a narrow victory over former Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker, who polls show has taken control of the race in recent days. In Virginia, Sen. George Allen (R) is fighting for his political life against Democrat James Webb, while the race in Missouri between Sen. James M. Talent (R) and State Auditor Claire McCaskill is considered the tightest.
Two other races have given Republicans reason to hope that they can hold the Senate. In Rhode Island, Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee (R) has closed the gap in his contest against former attorney general Sheldon Whitehouse. But Chafee is running into one of the stiffest headwinds in the country, with only about a quarter of voters there approving of Bush's performance.
In Montana, weekend polls painted a conflicting picture of the battle between Sen. Conrad Burns (R) and state Senate President Jon Tester. One survey showed a tie, while another gave Tester a clear lead. Bush and Vice President Cheney campaigned there last week, but Tester has been getting help from popular Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
Campaign volunteers continued to make telephone calls and walk precincts in the most contested races in an effort to maximize voter turnout. A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that as of Saturday, 41 percent of registered voters said they had been contacted directly by a campaign or party, up from 29 percent two weeks earlier.
Of those who said they had been contacted, 29 percent said they had heard from Republicans, 20 percent said they had heard from Democrats and 41 percent said they had been contacted by both parties. Several officials said this comports with anecdotal evidence that Republicans have done a better job than Democrats of reaching voters in the final stretch.
"We've got to get our votes out," former president Bill Clinton said during a campaign stop for House candidates in New York. "There are still people who will go to the polls tomorrow not entirely sure of who they're going to vote for because, frankly, a lot of these people never voted for us before."
--Washingtonpost.com staff writer Chris Cillizza contributed to this report.
SOME CITIES WILL VOTE ON IRAQ WITHDRAWAL
By Jay Lindsay
October 25, 2006
BOSTON -- For a week and a half, 81-year-old Hamer Lacey hauled his broken back and clipboard to a Gloucester grocery store parking lot, looking for signatures of residents who shared his fervent opposition to the war in Iraq.
His work over the summer put Gloucester among 139 Massachusetts communities where residents will vote next month on a nonbinding question that calls for an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
Voters in several cities in Wisconsin and Illinois will consider a similar question.
Organizers said they do not expect the results to turn U.S. policy around. But they said the outcome could at least make the growing anti-war sentiment clear to the policymakers.
"There's a gap between what the public wants and what public officials want," said Steve Burns of the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice. "They're not acting in our name. We hope, in time, we can bring them around."
Wade Zerkle, executive director of Vets for Freedom, said the referendums are a publicity stunt, and the outcome will not represent the majority: "I don't think a ballot referendum in some of the most liberal cities in America is going to hold much water."
He said most Americans, even those with growing doubts of about the war, know that leaving Iraq prematurely will create a terrorist haven that the U.S. will have to deal with.
Since the March 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, nearly 2,800 members of the U.S. military have been killed in Iraq, according to an Associated Press count.
"We're just hoping people will look into their hearts and say, `What is going on here?'" said Paul Shannon of the American Friends Service Committee, the Quaker peace group that helped organize the Massachusetts signature drive. "Are we really willing to throw away more lives tomorrow? For what?"
In Wisconsin, 10 communities will vote in November on withdrawal. In April, 24 of 32 Wisconsin communities voted in favor of removing U.S. forces.
In Illinois, the question will be considered in Chicago, as well as smaller cities, including Springfield and Urbana, and about a half-dozen towns.
The list of Massachusetts communities where the question will appear includes liberal cities such as Boston, Newton, and Cambridge, and communities such as Chicopee, a town in western Massachusetts where Westover Air Reserve Base is situated.
Berkeley, Calif., and two Wisconsin communities will also vote on whether President Bush should be impeached.
Organizers said the results of the referendums cannot be dismissed as the opinions of a lot of liberals. Burns said six Wisconsin communities that voted last spring for withdrawal cast their ballots for Bush in 2004.
Lacey said he has been anti-war since his Navy service in World War II, when he witnessed the destruction in civilian areas of Japan. The retired pediatrician's signature-gathering was limited to a few hours at a time by pain from a cracked vertebra, suffered in an auto accident in 2003.
"The whole gist of the Bush presidency is in conflict with what my ideals are," he said.
Zaida Walters of Houston, whose Marine son was killed in Fallujah, disagreed with the call to bring the troops home. She said her son, Leroy Sandoval Jr., was committed to the mission and would believe in it today.
"I think we need to finish what we started," Walters said. "I really do."
WAKE ME WHEN IT'S OVER
By Joshua Frank
November 7, 2006
Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has promised there will not be a change of course in Iraq if the Democrats take back Congress. Potential House leader Nancy Pelosi has assured voters that impeachment is not in the cards for Bush, either. Yet the liberal establishment is beckoning antiwar voters to clamor for the Democratic Party today. It seems like 2004 all over again.
I recently disparaged the positions of progressive media critic Jeff Cohen and the Nation magazine for not supporting independent antiwar candidates, and instead calling for more of the same: i.e., voting for the Democrats even though we disagree with them on the war and a host of other issues. If we want to take on Bush, they argue, the Democrats have to take back Congress, and only then can we start to build a genuine movement against the neocons.
In the meantime, however, the war will rage on and Bush will remain at the helm of Empire with Congress' blessing. As the Washington Post reported on Aug. 27, of the 46 Democratic candidates in tight House races this year, 29 "oppose a date-certain to begin withdrawing troops." That's a whopping 63 percent of Democrats in hotly contested races who have exactly the same position on the war as our liar in chief, George W. Bush.
Even so, Howard Dean offers up his own deceptive promise: "[W]e will put some pressure on him [Bush] to have some benchmarks, some timetables, and a real plan other than stay the course."
What? Who is going to do that? The 63 percent who oppose a timetable? And what plan are the Democrats going to offer up? They openly refuse to back Rep. Jack Murtha's call for redeployment, and they won't even acknowledge Rep. Jim McGovern's half-baked plea to replace U.S. forces with another international occupation cartel.
Besides, even if a withdrawal plan made its way past the House, would the Senate, even if controlled by Democrats, ever consider putting forward an alternative agenda? It sure doesn't look that way. There is not one Democratic senator who wants an immediate, unconditional end to this war.
Perhaps even more discouraging this election season is the way that the media and the mainstream antiwar movement have collaborated. They have both willfully ignored candidates running against war supporters from outside the Democratic Party.
Peace Action, the self-proclaimed largest grass roots peace organization in the U.S., has refused to supply antiwar activists with a guide to the midterm elections. They claim to not have the funds to print them, but still won't put a voting pamphlet on their Web site to inform voters that they indeed have options on Nov. 7.
The Nation magazine, despite an editorial last year that claimed they would not support pro-war Democrats, has provided virtually no coverage of third-party antiwar campaigns. After an editorial staff meeting with Sen. Hillary Clinton's antiwar challenger Howie Hawkins, the Nation still wouldn't write a word about his campaign, even though a recent Zogby poll shows that he is receiving over 20 percent of the independent vote in New York.
Predictably, MoveOn.org and liberal bloggers like DailyKos would never engage in a debate about the legitimacy of building an independent antiwar movement, let alone a third party. Instead they'd rather throw their energy into campaigns like Ned Lamont's disaster in Connecticut. Since Ned defeated Sen. Joe Lieberman in the primary, he has changed his tune on Iraq from reasonable opposition to all-out war hawk. But that's where working within the Democratic Party will get you.
So perhaps it is not "why" Peace Action and others in the liberal establishment have silenced antiwar candidates, but "how." We know why: they are professional liberals who see the Democratic Party as an indispensable ally in the quest for grants, careers, and cocktail party networking.
Every election season is the same. In order to get what we want, we have to vote for what we don't want. Well, that kind of thinking will never end a war.