Robert Novak, recovered from pessimism.
The devastation of Tuesday’s returns cannot be minimized. The transformation of the “Solid South” from Democrat to Republican was completed. Not only were all 11 states of the old Confederacy carried by President Bush, but the pickup of all five Senate seats left vacant by retiring Democrats means 18 of the region’s 22 senators are Republican. Domination of Congress by the GOP now enters its second decade with Democrats largely restricted to enclaves on both coasts and some Midwestern industrial areas.
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Reliance on exit polls is only a surface manifestation of what ails the Democrats. Rove was correct and Democrats guessed wrong in assessing the American mood. A symptom was Democratic belief that former Rep. Tom Coburn in Oklahoma and Rep. Jim DeMint in South Carolina were just too conservative to defeat moderate Democrats for the Senate. In fact, each won easily.
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It is Republicans who would be facing internal carnage had Bush been defeated. Karl Rove would have been blamed for catering to the religious right, and the battle to moderate the party would be joined. Instead, the anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, socially conservative agenda is ascendant, and the GOP will not abandon it any time soon.