This Incumbent Was Protected from the Wave

Last week I wrote about the ways the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 made Christopher Shays’ re-election bid more likely.

Yesterday, Chris Shays bucked the national trend and won re-election despite having trailed in the polls for some time. He won by 3 percentage points of the vote. In 2004, a better year for Republicans, Shays won by 4 points.

Perhaps he should send a thank you note to the sponsors of the law, Senators John McCain and Russell Feingold as well as Rep. Martin Meehan and … Rep. Christopher Shays.

REAL ID and a Sweep for Democrats in New Hampshire

There are many explanations for the strong result Democrats got in the election yesterday. Focusing on New Hampshire, there is a neat correlation between support for the REAL ID Act and defeat at the polls yesterday.

Jeb Bradley was one of “several Washington officials … urging state senators to support Real ID” when the state legislature was considering a bill to reject it. He was defeated by Carol Shea-Porter, a surprise victor who enjoyed little help from national Democrats. Here’s Shea-Porter speaking at an anti-REAL-ID rally.

Representing the Second District, Charlie Bass was an original co-sponsor of the REAL ID Act, and he touted that fact on his Web site. His replacement is Paul Hodes. Hodes is not a full-throated critic of REAL ID, but he did tell AP, “I do not favor creating a new central federal database using the permanent images of these documents… . A piece of paper is not the solution to securing our borders from terrorism. We need to better coordinate our existing law enforcement databases and watch lists.”

The Republican leadership of the state senate gutted and killed New Hampshire’s bill to reject REAL ID earlier this year. In a debate Monday, Republican Senate President Ted Gatsas said “There’s no question REAL ID makes sense.” Ted Gatsas will no longer be Senate President. Democrats took control of the New Hampshire State Senate for only the second time since 1911. Gatsas’ re-election bid was too close to call overnight, but it now appears he narrowly beat back his Democratic opponent.

As to REAL ID opponents, Governor John Lynch was re-elected. Voters gave control of the New Hampshire Executive Council (an additional legislative body that would have to approve the acceptance of federal funds for implementing REAL ID) to Democrats for good measure.

Of course, many things influence the outcome of elections, but REAL ID has been fiercely debated in New Hampshire this year. It’s not a coincidence that the party on the wrong side of the national ID issue was voted out of power.

Bipartisan Baloney

Pundits and politicians are calling for bipartisan hugs and kisses between the red and blue teams with the new closely divided Congress. The parties will need to work together and stop the bomb-throwing we are told. The Washington Post today says that the Democrats should resist the temptation to act “highhandedly and unilaterally.”

That’s nonsense. In a closely divided legislature, partisanship and attacks on the other team are the logical course for both parties. Because both parties know that either House or Senate could easily switch back over in 2008, they will do their best to deny the other side any legislative victories. The GOP’s strategy now will be to show that the Dems can’t get anything done, so they block, filibuster, and veto. They are the opposition in the House, so their job is to oppose.

The Dems will use their chairmanships and control of the House floor to schedule partisan hearings and votes to try and make the Republicans look bad any way that they can. The most important thing for Nancy Pelosi will be to hold onto the majority and line up some divisive issues to hammer on to help the party’s 2008 presidential nominee. Note that she won’t be scheduling votes on tax hikes anytime soon, because that would immediately revive the GOP and jeopardize 2008.

You can get “bipartisanship” if the legislature is lopsided and the minority thinks that they will be the underdog for a long time to come. In that case, the minority knows that they will have to be nice to the majority to get any of their own priorities accomplished.

Whether any of this is good or bad for the country is another issue. I like a divided and gridlocked legislature, and I like ideologically polarized parties because it gives voters cleaner choices and helps strengthen party brand names.

Fiscal Results Mainly Bad

As a think tank that follows state ballot initiatives noted: “Voters seemed to be in a fiscally expansiive mood” [pdf] yesterday.

Caps on state government spending were rejected in Maine, Nebraska, and Oregon. The best chance for passage had been Maine.

As usual, voters fell for the ruse of voting for tax increases when they are called “bonds.” Californians imposed $43 billion in tax hikes on themselves and the next generation of young people by approving multiple bond offerings.

There was some scattered good news. California rejected a proposal to raise energy taxes. And South Carolina voters approved a cap on property tax increases.

For further reading on the generally unhappy fiscal results, read here.