Republicans snag Senate

By Jon Dougherty

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The White House ultimately is the big winner following this historic midterm election, as Republicans managed to regain control of the Senate while hanging onto the majority in the House.

The victory in the Senate is thanks to former U.S. Rep. Jim Talent, who managed to knock off incumbent Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan by a narrow margin. With Talent’s win, Republicans can assume immediate control of the Senate because the former GOP congressman, under Missouri law, will assume his Senate seat right away, rather than in January when the rest of tonight’s winners take office.

The Carnahan-Talent race is a “special election” because Mrs. Carnahan was appointed to her post by former Gov. Roger Wilson. Her husband, then-Gov. Mel Carnahan, was killed in a plane crash just weeks before the 2000 election, in which he posthumously defeated incumbent GOP Sen. John Ashcroft.

Another key win for the GOP was in Minnesota, where Norm Coleman defeated former Vice President Walter Mondale, who replaced the deceased Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone just days before the election.

Final results in South Dakota show Republican Rep. John Thune losing to Democrat Sen. Tim Johnson by a mere 528 votes in that state’s Senate race. Thune gave up his House seat to challenge Johnson, a freshman senator, in this particularly bitter and negative race, which is widely regarded as a proxy war between President Bush and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, the state’s senior senator. Election officials say a recount of the Thune-Johnson race appears likely.

The GOP’s successes mean Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., will replace Daschle as majority leader, and committee chairmanships will have to be relinquished by Democrats.

The Senate win also means President Bush, whose legislative agenda has been stalled by Democratic delaying tactics, has a chance to move forward again, which could mean judicial appointments – including possible Supreme Court replacements – will be easier to push through.

Also at stake is Bush’s homeland security agenda, as well as his energy, education and tax issues.

Republicans cruised to victory in the House, managing not only to hold on to control, but to defy history by not allowing Democrats to regain the upper hand during midterm elections. In fact, the GOP picked up seats in the House, according to polling data.

The last time that happened was when Franklin Roosevelt’s Democrats won seats in the midterm election of 1934, and Bill Clinton’s Democrats gained in 1998.

With the GOP’s upset victories tonight, President Bush becomes only the third president to lead his party to midterm gains in nearly a century.