The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox all lead with follow-up to the elections and sketch out the Republicans’ coming agenda, which will include passing the homeland security bill, new tax cuts, and probably tort reform. Pushing through Bush’s judicial nominees will also be a big item to check off. Meanwhile, Democrat Dick Gephardt has decided not to run for re-election as minority leader of the House. The Washington Post gives a big center headline over to the elections, but in the traditional lead spot (top right), the paper goes with the Federal Reserve’s announcement that it’s cutting its main interest rate by an unexpectedly large one-half percent, to 1.25 percent. Stocks rose a bit on news of the cut.
Despite the GOP’s big wins, everybody points out that they didn’t gloat too much (on orders from Bush, apparently). Republicans also don’t have the 60 votes needed in the Senate to get most bills passed. But the GOP is looking for a few good men. According to the Post, Republicans are trying to sweet-talk a number of conservative Democrats in the House and Senate into switching teams (no, not like that).
A piece inside the Post mentions one factor that contributed to the GOP gains: They raised about $180 million more than their Democratic counterparts. The Post points out that that differential will likely increase in the future: The new McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law that bans soft money is going to hurt Dems disproportionately, since Dems rely on soft money more than the GOP.
The Post’s Howard Kurtz and the LAT both scorecard pundits’ elections predictions, plenty of which, of course, were way off-base. To Kurtz’s credit, he tries to go beyond the simple pundits-are-stupid thesis and says readers should also be wary of the Republican-sweep storyline: “A switch of roughly 29,000 votes in Minnesota, 11,500 in Missouri and 9,500 in New Hampshire would have produced a Democratic Senate and gobs of stories about how the White House blew it.”
Yesterday’s TP mentioned the dearth of coverage on voter turnout. Today’s USAT graphic doohickey deals with it: Of the people eligible to vote Tuesday, 39 percent did so.
The key Fed interest rate is now at its lowest point since 1961. The Post says the Fed made yesterday’s big cut because it was “worried that the economy is close to stalling.” The Journal is a touch more hopeful, acknowledging the worries about stagnation but concluding that Greenspan and Co. “maintain a strong optimism about the economy” and don’t think it’s going to head back into recession. Meanwhile, everybody notes that the rate is approaching zero and can’t be cut much more.
The NYT goes inside with another must-read by Stephen Labaton, this on one the mess that’s become the SEC and how things are going to become much worse without a chairman. New initiatives, such as setting up the new accounting oversight board, are unlikely to get off the ground without an agency boss. Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said a new appointment could take “weeks, or months.” Meanwhile, Labaton, who’s really the only guy you need to read on this SEC stuff, adds that the agency’s chief accountant, a buddy of Pitt’s, is expected to resign too. Oh, and the Times suggests that William Webster, the head of the new accounting oversight board, and who has gotten plenty of negative press himself, is also working on this résumé.
The LAT Column One is meant to highlight slow-moving behind-the-scenes type stories and has a good one today: Extremist settlers in the West Bank have been beating and occasionally shooting Palestinians as the Palestinians try to pick their own olive trees. As one of the militant settlers explained, Palestinians “can decide what is more important to them: olive oil or their blood.” The LAT says that Israeli police have yet to crack down on these hoodlums.
The Journal, echoing yesterday’s LAT, headlines that U.S. officials say that the resolution on Iraq is a done deal and that France is onboard. The WP and NYT are more conservative and stay away from highlighting the U.S.’s assertions. Still, the articles themselves say that the U.S. is on the verge of wrapping it up and wants to have a vote on Friday.