Sunday, March 09, 2008

Republicans lose Dennis Hastert's Congressional seat

With all the focus on the Presidential race, which certainly deserves the attention, people sometimes lose sight of the fact that in November 2008 there will also be elections for the US House of Representatives and for a third of the Senate. Of course, anything might happen between now and then. But signs have been accumulating for more than a year that the Republicans are probably headed for electoral catastrophe across the board this fall.

(The lopsided figures for voter turnout for this year's Presidential nominating contests, where voters in Democratic primaries and caucuses have fairly consistently, and often massively, outnumbered voters in the Republican primaries & caucuses, further contribute to this impression.)

The latest indication of a looming Republican debacle came in yesterday's special election (what Brits would call a by-election) in Illinois to fill the seat left vacant by the retirement of 11-term Republican Congressman and former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. Perhaps coincidentally, Hastert is one of a number of Republican Congressmen and Senators who have decided recently that they wanted to spend more time with their families.
In an amazing upset, the Democrats have won the special election for the House seat of former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), a district that has long been in Republican hands and voted 55%-44% for President Bush in 2004.
For more details and further analysis, see the Chicago Tribune's report, which begins:
In a stunning upset Saturday that could be a sign of trouble for Republicans this fall, a little-known Democratic physicist won the special election for a far west suburban congressional seat long held by former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert.
By itself, this election upset might be an isolated fluke. But as I said, it fits into a larger pattern.

=> My impressions from April 2007 still make sense to me:
It seems safe to conclude [based on public-opinion polls in early 2007 and a lot of other evidence] that many voters are pretty disillusioned with both parties, but more disgusted with the Republicans. Hard to blame them. This is good news for the Democrats--if they don't blow it.

The larger problem, though, is that our whole political system is in pretty unhealthy shape, and to make matters worse, since 2000 an enormous amount of additional damage has accumulated that will have to be repaired. If there is a Republican crash, which would certainly be well deserved, will that open up possibilities for real improvement? Let's hope so.
(When I wrote that, I had no way of knowing that "hope" would turn out to be such a big political theme this year. Well, we do need more of it.)

--Jeff Weintraub
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Talking Points Memo - Election Central
March 8, 2008, 9:59PM
Democrats Win Dennis Hastert's House Seat!
By Eric Kleefeld

In an amazing upset, the Democrats have won the special election for the House seat of former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), a district that has long been in Republican hands and voted 55%-44% for President Bush in 2004.

With 99% reporting, Democrat Bill Foster, a physicist and businessman, leads Republican businessman and perennial candidate Jim Oberweis by 52%-48%, and has been projected the winner by the Associated Press.

Prediction: The Obama campaign will shop this around to uncommitted super-delegates, as evidence that they can expand the electoral playing field. One thing that helped Foster greatly was a well-organized get out the vote machine that the state party had organized to beef up Obama's totals in the Super Tuesday primary, and Obama himself took the time to cut an ad for Foster's campaign.

And at the very least, Obama can probably count on the support of one particular super-delegate: Congressman-Elect Bill Foster (D-IL).

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