Today's Papers

The GOP’s Grand Party

Everybody leads with Republicans’ big wins in yesterday’s midterm elections: The GOP gained control of the Senate and slightly enlarged its majority in the House.

As of TP’s press time (bedtime), the GOP has picked up one Senate seat, giving them the magical 50; the Dems have 46, and three seats remain undecided: In Louisiana there’s going to be a runoff since the leading candidate, Democrat Mary Landrieu, didn’t get 50 percent of the vote, which the state requires for a win. In Minnesota, GOP candidate Norm Coleman is leading former vice prez Walter Mondale by three points. Meanwhile, South Dakota’s Senate candidates are only a few thousand votes apart, with GOP nominee John Thune holding an itty-bitty lead. Here are the  latest election results.

The GOP’s performance is, historically speaking, kind of impressive. The last time a sitting president saw his party gain control of the Senate: 1882. Still, it’s only a gain of a few seats and some of the papers argue that the electorate essentially remains split. USA Today goes hardest with this angle, headlining its front-page analysis, “SLIM GOP MARGIN REFLECTS DIVIDED COUNTRY.” Slate quickie pundit Mickey Kaus says that storyline is bunk, pointing out that Republicans seem to have won “the vast majority of contested non-gerrymandered races.”

The Republicans’ wins don’t come as a complete surprise. A few polls had predicted that voters were  leaning Republican. In fact, USAT led with that on Monday. Sunday’s New York Times had a poll story mentioning the same trend but put it in the sixth paragraph of a story that had an unrelated, snorer headline. Actually, it’s worse than that: The Times flew by its own polling numbers and concluded, “Democratic voters might be more motivated to cast their ballots on Tuesday.” Woops.

In one bit of good news for the Democrats, they did pick up a few governors’ seats, including Pennsylvania and Illinois. Also, as the Los Angeles Times gives half its banner headline over to, California Gov. Gray Davis beat his much-derided opponent, Bill Simon, by (only) 5 percent. On the other hand, the Dems’ gubernatorial candidate in Maryland, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, lost to GOP candidate Robert Ehrlich, the first time Maryland has elected a Republican governor since 1966. And in a big shocker, Republican Sonny Perdue beat Georgia’s Democratic incumbent governor,Roy Barnes. Perdue will become Georgia’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction.

Everybody mentions that the media’s exit poll consortium, the Voter News Service, crashed and burned yesterday. After it royally screwed up during the last presidential election (oy, remember that?), VNS launched a four-year effort to rejigger its counting process. Problem is, it’s only Year 2, and, surprise surprise, the software coders were behind schedule. “We got the report from the statisticians that the computers were having problems compiling the votes,” one TV news exec told the LAT. “There was no debate, even. We just said no.” Meanwhile, the Florida-style election debacle that many feared would happen didn’t materialize. One thing TP didn’t spot in the papers: a sense of voter turnout and any mention of those, perhaps the majority of citizens, who didn’t vote.

Everybody goes high with word that embattled SEC chief Harvey Pitt resigned yesterday. The resignation was announced at about 9 p.m. EST, when, no doubt coincidentally, most journalists were a touch busy with election coverage. White House officials said they were surprised by the timing and denied that they ordered Pitt to resign, though they acknowledged they were planning to do so. While the NYT off-leads this news, the LAT puts it below the fold, and the final edition of the Washington Post  stuffs it. The NYT’s Stephen Labaton, otherwise known as the Pitt-killer, has the best piece on the downfall, going through each of Pitt’s missteps since he was appointed to the SEC just a few weeks before 9/11.

As Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal predicted, the SEC yesterday filed additional fraud charges against WorldCom, while the company itself admitted that it booked $9 billion of false revenue, not $7 billion, as it had previously admitted. There could be more. WorldCom pointed out that the new number is based on “very preliminary reviews of past accounting.”

The NYT does a followup on Sunday’s Predator strike in Yemen and notes that President Bush didn’t actually give the launch order; he’s handed authority to order such strikes over to what the Times dubs “very senior officials.”

The U.S.’s long-stalled U.N. resolution on Iraq makes it back onto some front pages (OK, just the LAT’s): The U.S. plans to submit its “final proposal” today, and while French diplomats said they still need to get a thumbs up from French President Jacques Chirac, U.S. officials suggested that France—the tipping point vote—is onboard. A few weeks ago, the LAT was first to suggest that a deal was on its way. While it’s taken a bit for the paper’s prediction to bear out, the new deal is essentially the same one as outlined before. Meanwhile, the LAT, which nabbed a copy of the new draft, gives the strongest impression among the papers that the resolution is going to pass. “It is a masterpiece of creative ambiguity,” explained one diplomat.