I Remember Hanging Chads


What's the usually perceptive Howard Kurtz talking about here?

As for the Senate, well, I warned last week that we all might wake up this morning and not know the outcome. I wonder whether that will also be true when we wake up tomorrow morning. Gives new meaning to the phrase "too close to call."

No, it doesn't. Republicans are trailing by around 1,500 votes in Montana and 8,000 in Virginia. George Bush would have killed for margins like those in Florida six years ago, in a state with roughly twice the population of Virginia and 27 times that of Montana.

Since Democrats have already cautiously declared victory (actually, Jim Webb's deadpan victory statement set a record for how smartassed those can be) in those states, it's time to consider an anomoly. Why did all but one Senate seat break towards the Democrats, but the close House seats split roughly down the middle? Plenty of targeted House Republicans—Heather Wilson in New Mexico, Deborah Pryce in Ohio, Jim Gerlach in Pennsylvania—ran flawless campaigns and were rewarded with new terms. Jim Talent ran a flawless campaign and was rewarded with the Dick Trickle Award for Most Ironic Name. So why do Senate races break towards the winning party and the House races split? A boring combination of gerrymandering (although that had less to do with it in a year the Democrats gained a seat in Kansas) and voter familiarity. Outside of very small states, most voters never interact with their senators. But congressmen can, and often do, talk to around 1/3 of their constituents every year. The congressmen who lost, by no small coincidence, included blowhards who haven't paid attention to their districts in years. If J.D. Hayworth had spent a month attending town meetings and answering constituent mail instead of writing an excreble anti-immigration book and guest-hosting for Rush Limbaugh, he'd still be a congressman.