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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The end of New England Republicans

It may be an exaggeration, but not by much: New England Republicans are becoming extinct, at least according to this AP analysis:

The Democratic tidal wave in Tuesday's elections claimed several victims in seats that had long been in Republican hands. Scholars say the losses may be the death knell for the traditional "rock-ribbed" New England Republican.

Perhaps the best example is Sen. Lincoln Chafee, whose family has represented Rhode Island in the Senate for 30 years.

Both of New Hampshire's seats in Congress switched parties. Six-term Rep. Charles Bass, also part of a political family whose father held the same seat in Congress and whose grandfather was a governor, lost to a Democrat, as did Rep. Jeb Bradley, who served 12 years in the state legislature before winning election to Congress in 2002.

Twelve-term Rep. Nancy Johnson, Connecticut's longest-serving congresswoman, lost by 12 percentage points to a Democrat. Another Connecticut moderate, Rep. Rob Simmons, is fighting for his political life. With a recount under way, Simmons trailed Democrat Joe Courtney by fewer than 200 votes.

Yankee Republicans like Chafee's father, the late Sen. John Chafee, former Sen. Lowell Weicker of Connecticut, or even President Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush, once were the base of the party. Not anymore.

The defeat of Chafee, arguably the most liberal GOP senator, and Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine, who at times aligned himself with GOP moderates, leaves Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania as perhaps the only reliably centrist Republicans in the Senate.

Amazingly, assuming no changes by way of recount, U. S. Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut's 4th District isn't simply the only Republican Congressman from Connecticut - he's the only one in all of New England! A Greenwich Time writer refers to Shays as "unbeatable." How does he do it?

Shays' 7,060-vote victory was so impressive that many politicians and observers are questioning whether Democrats can ever find a way to unseat him.

"I just don't see how (the Democrats are) going to do it in 2008," said state Republican Party Chairman George Gallo. "Congressman Shays fits the 4th District to a T ideologically. He's a moderate, social liberal, fiscal conservative that mirrors the district perfectly."

Democratic state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said "nothing is impossible" in politics, but acknowledged why Shays is tough to beat.

"He is respected and dedicated," Blumenthal said. "His intelligence, insight and devotion to his district is very rare in a public servant. That puts him at a terrific advantage, whatever the political climate is. People may feel hostile toward the Bush Administration, but they still elect the individual."

That speaks volumes about Mr. Shays, but perhaps it also speaks volumes about the failure of Republicans as well.

What does the future hold? Here's an interesting note: the Family Institute of Connecticut (FIC), certainly far to the right politically of Mr. Shays, is very pleased that pro-family candidates it endorsed did well in state elections. The FIC thinks that Connecticut Republican candidates weren't conservative enough, and their old-fashioned pavement-pounding might actually have helped to send a number of conservative Democrats to the State Legislature.

FIC President Brian Brown says, "We won 40 races and lost in 26. That's a 61% success rate in an election year where we saw massive losses in state houses across the country."

This may be more hard evidence that evangelicals and conservative Catholics are now more ready to support people of either party as long as their values are being upheld.

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