McCain gains po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Stephen Di­nan

Sen. John McCain emerged from the Nov. 7 elec­tions as one of Repub­li­cans’ only win­ners as Democrats made solid gains and both par­ties turn an eye to­ward 2008.

The Ari­zona Repub­li­can, who wasn’t up for re-elec­tion, ral­lied to the side of Repub­li­can can­di­dates at 131 events — a strong show­ing that dis­played his ris­ing pop­u­lar­ity. His strength was un­der­scored Mon­day when Char­lie Crist, Florida’s new Repub­li­can gov­er­nor, chose to skip a sched­uled rally with Pres­i­dent Bush for an event with Mr. McCain.

“There’sgo­ing­to­be­abatchof­peo­ple who are go­ing to per­son­ally owe McCain and there’s go­ing to be an­other batch of peo­ple who are go­ing to have to re­think their view of him,” said Michael McKenna, a Repub­li­can strate­gist and poll­ster.

“He was a pretty solid party stal­wart this go around, in a cy­cle when it­was­noteasy­to­bea­partys­tal­wart.”

As both par­ties took stock of wins and­loss­esonNov.7,thesoul-search­ing be­gan for Repub­li­cans, while Democrats will now fo­cus on cap­i­tal­iz­ing on their gains.

Fore­most among those Democrats are ris­ing star Sen. Barack Obama, the charis­matic Illi­nois Demo­crat who re­cently said he no longer rules out run­ning for pres­i­dent in 2008, and Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton, the New York Democratwhochecked­of­fan­im­por­tant­box on her pres­i­den­tial to-do list by get­ting re-elected, amass­ing a sub­stan­tial cam­paign fund and a solid spring­board vic­tory in the process.

But the prospects for both par­ties in Congress are more bleak with a lame-duck pres­i­dent and lead­ers of both­par­tiesstakingout­po­si­tions­for the elec­tion in two years.

Nei­ther party ran on a for­ward­look­ing agenda, with Repub­li­cans ask­ing vot­ers to stay the course on Iraq and the econ­omy while De- mocrat­spro­pose­drolling­back­some of the Bush tax cuts and said they rep­re­sented a vote of no con­fi­dence in the way the ad­min­is­tra­tion has pros­e­cuted the war.

With­out a man­date for ei­ther party, there is lit­tle to push Capi­tol Hill off the grid­lock that has stalled fur­ther tax cuts, So­cial Se­cu­rity re­form and other ma­jor ini­tia­tives.

And Democrats have their work cut out for them in 2008 de­fend­ing House seats they won on solidly Repub­li­can­ground.Fourofthoseseats were the re­sult of dis­graced Repub­li­cans: Rep. Don Sher­wood in Penn­syl­va­nia and for­mer Reps. Mark Fo­ley­inFlorida,BobNey­inOhioand Tom De­Lay in Texas.

Still, Democrats’ wins in the House, giv­ing them con­trol for the first time since 1995, will al­ter the agenda on sev­eral thorny is­sues, in­clud­ing key gun leg­is­la­tion such as the as­sault weapons ban, which lapse­dun­derRepub­li­can­con­trol­but could come back un­der Demo­cratic con­trol.

Democrats have also promised to re­visit and ex­pand Mr. Bush’s Medi­carepre­scrip­tion­drug­pro­gram.

And a Demo­crat-con­trolled Houser­e­moves­the­ma­jorob­sta­cleto a broad im­mi­gra­tion bill that in­cludes a path to cit­i­zen­ship for il­le­gal aliens. House Repub­li­cans had blocked ac­tion on such a pro­posal, call­ing it amnesty, but House Democrats can now team with a bi­par­ti­san­ma­jor­i­tyintheSe­nate­and­with a will­ing pres­i­dent to pass a bill.

On­thede­fen­siveside­oftheledger, Democratswill­bein­a­bet­ter­po­si­tion to­block­fu­ture­free­tradea­gree­ments.

The Repub­li­can search for an­swers will cen­ter on Mr. Bush, the leader of the party, whose string of elec­tion­suc­cess­escame­toa­nendin dra­matic fash­ion and with a strong re­jec­tion of his lead­er­ship.

Ac­cord­ing to a na­tional exit poll, con­ducted for the As­so­ci­ated Press and the ma­jor broad­cast net­works, morethantwiceas­man­yvot­ers­said they felt an­gry to­ward the pres­i­dent thanfel­tenthu­si­as­tic,and­morethan a third of vot­ers said their vote was in op­po­si­tion to him.

“Allo­fusRepub­li­cansare­go­ingto sit down to­gether and lis­ten to the vot­ers,get­themes­sage­from­tonight, and we’re go­ing to shape not a new agend­abutare­turn­tothep­rin­ci­ples and phi­los­o­phy of what we stand for and be­lieve in,” Mr. McCain said on Fox News.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Florida Repub­li­can can­di­date for gov­er­nor Char­lie Crist (left) skipped a sched­uled ap­pear­ance with Pres­i­dent Bush in Pen­sacola, Fla. on Nov. 6 to at­tend a cam­paign rally with Ari­zona Repub­li­can Sen. John McCain in Jack­sonville, Fla.

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