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Midterm mania (yes, still)

The San Antonio Express writes up Rodriguez's upset win yesterday over Bonilla.  "Andy Hernandez, a political scientist at the University of Texas at San Antonio and a former [DNC] staffer, said Rodriguez's victory was in step with last month's Democratic upheaval.  'You have to see this as part of the national trend where Republicans lost in swing districts,' he said.  'This anti-Republican trend, which Hispanics had a big part in, played out here.'" 

As we've written before, voters might have rejected the Republican party in last month's midterm elections, but they weren't exactly giving the Democratic party a ringing endorsement, either.  Some pundits who gathered yesterday at a seminar sponsored by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, including Democratic strategist James Carville and Rep. Tom Davis (R), expressed the same sentiments as they conducted a post-mortem of the election.

Looking at the House, Karin Johanson, executive director of the Democratic House campaign committee (DCCC), cited Leader Nancy Pelosi and DCCC chair Rahm Emanuel's heavy focus on recruiting and raising money as key factors in the party's success, as well as setting certain media and fundraising benchmarks for candidates to meet before receiving full support of the committee.  Johanson added that while DNC chair Howard Dean's "50-state strategy" might be effective in the long-term, she's not sure how much of an effect it had this past cycle.

The GOP House campaign committee's deputy political director, Jonathan Poe, credited the DCCC with running several effective ads, namely those that attacked Republicans for rejecting bonuses for US troops but voting to raise their own pay.  Poe added that Democratic 527 groups were highly effective and made it a "frustrating" cycle for GOP.  Poe also conceded that about 99% of their own ads were negative, but they used them because they "work."  The Cook Report's Amy Walter said the outcome was "no surprise by any match" and noted that while the DCCC deserves credit for their strategy, the "environment" this year put them over the top.  To the GOP's credit, though, Walter added that the wins of Republican incumbents like Chris Shays, Jim Gerlach and Heather Wilson were laudable.

In the Senate, NBC political analyst Charlie Cook noted that Republicans were doomed, despite recruiting strong candidates like Mike Bouchard in Michigan and Mike McGavick in Washington.  The Democratic Senate campaign committee's executive director, JB Poersch, said his party's wins in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia will give them bumps heading into 2008 in states that have been difficult for them in the past.

Republican pollster Neil Newhouse said immigration issue hurt the GOP because many Republicans and Bush were on opposite sides of the fence.  Newhouse added that Republicans were also faced with trying to delicately balance their distance from Bush and their position on Iraq without losing credibility on the issue.  But, he noted that some losses were beyond the party's control.  "The Santorum loss was Rick's loss," Newhouse said.

Citing the conventional wisdom that these elections were more about voting against the incumbent party than for the minority party, the Cook Report's Jennifer Duffy added that Democrats won on the "we are not them," bandwagon before suggesting that Democrats should stand in front of the mirror and repeat, "It wasn't about me."