The big election news out of last night was the victory of William Faulkner impersonator Travis Childers (D) in the blood-red first Misssissippi House seat. A district that voted 63-37 for Bush over Kerry (up from 59-40 for Bush over Gore) went for the Democrat by eight points. The excuses for Republican loser Greg Davis just aren't there.
After losing special elections in Illinois and Louisiana, the House GOP conference already expects a bad year for their party. But those two districts voted for President Bush by eleven and nineteen points, respectively, not by a whopping twenty five points. "People are going to want change," said a top aide to a leading House Republican. "The excuses, that [Davis] didn't have the resources or that he wasn't from the right part of the district, that's just not going to hold up."
The party's official statement is actually pretty bleak:
Tonight's election highlights two significant challenges Republicans must overcome this November. First, Republicans must be prepared to campaign against Democrat challengers who are running as conservatives, even as they try to join a liberal Democrat majority. Though the Democrats' task will be more difficult in a November election, the fact is they have pulled off two special election victories with this strategy, and it should be a concern to all Republicans.
There's still some lame spin buried in there. Of course Democrats running in conservative districts are running as conservatives. For starters, they're conservatives. Childers is going to join the Blue Dog conference in the House and vote against his party on basically every social issue. Republicans don't run stone-cold conservatives in northeastern, Democratic-leaning districts, and the people they do elect are like Chris Shays and Linc Chafee—reliable votes for a Republican speaker, reliable back-stabbers on a bunch of other stuff.
A fun footnote: In 1989, Trent Lott was serving his first term in the Senate when Larkin Smith, the Republican elected to his old House seat in southeast Mississippi, died in a plane crash. Lott forced Smith's widow out of the race and installed his aide Tom Anderson, who blew the election by 30 points to still-Rep. Gene Taylor. How did Mississippi's first district open up this year? Trent Lott quit his Senate seat and the GOP elevated MS-01 Congressman Roger Wicker to fill his slot.
So, Trent Lott: He turned two of Mississippi's House seats blue.