Democrats won decisive control over the House of Representatives yesterday, a fact that blankets all of the front pages this morning. The papers struggled to keep up with the late-breaking returns, and most shied away from publishing exact figures, but USA Todaytakes the cake for the latest updated number in its print edition, where it declared that Democrats won at least 27 Republican-held seats (they needed 15). “Today the American people voted for change and they voted for Democrats to take our country in a new direction, and that is exactly what we intend to do,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is slated to become the nation’s first female speaker, said at a Democratic rally last night.
The Senate is a different story, and the fight for its control could last weeks, or even months. Democrats managed to win several of the contested seats around the country, including in Missouri and Maryland. But the battle for the Senate is now concentrated in Montana and Virginia, two states where Democrats have a slight lead. Virginia is bound to stay in the news as the razor-thin margin of less than 8,000 votes between James Webb and Republican Sen. George Allen is likely to result in a recount.
The Los Angeles Timesstates the House takeover and possible Senate victory “loomed as the most decisive political shift in Washington since 1994, when Republicans won control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.” Also for the first time since 1994, Democrats won a majority of the country’s governorships.
All the papers front analysis pieces that mention all the pre-vote speculation seems to have played out as most elections were decided on national issues, especially Iraq. The New York Timessays the election has put “a proudly unyielding president on notice that the voters want change, especially on the war in Iraq.” The Washington Postsays the victory will “challenge Democrats to make the leap from angry opposition to partners in power.”
The LAT looks at the results and declares the GOP’s failure was due to a strategy of appealing solely to conservatives and forgetting the middle. Interviews with voters revealed that, as expected, independents were more likely to cast a ballot for Democrats. USAT says exit-poll data shows Republicans suffered a drop from some of their traditional supporters. The Wall Street Journal analyzes the role of the Hispanic vote and declares it could be one of the biggest factors in the campaign. Polls showed Hispanics favoring Democrats over Republicans by 73 percent to 26 percent.
The NYT fronts, and everyone else goes inside with, the vast array of problems voters faced at different polling places around the country. Electronic voting machines didn’t work, some poll workers didn’t know how to operate the equipment, there was confusion over who was registered, and some voters had to endure long lines in order to cast their ballot. There were also reports of intimidation and some voters in several states, including Colorado and Virginia, received calls telling them their polling places had changed or they were registered somewhere else and that they would be arrested if they tried to vote. But in the end, election experts agreed these were all minor glitches and would not invalidate any election. (Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick and Blake Wilson kept track of the “best polling disasters” throughout the day.)
In Connecticut, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, who was running as an independent after he lost the Democratic primary, easily defeated Ned Lamont.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi will probably become the most powerful woman in the history of Congress, and this will happen after a race that saw a record number of women candidates at the state level, as well as for the U.S. Senate, declares the WSJ on Page One.
Even though things are too close to call in the Senate race in Virginia, voters in that state did approve a constitutional amendment banning marriage for same-sex couples, as well as civil unions. Seven other states had similar constitutional amendments on the ballot yesterday and they were approved in Idaho, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Results were still pending in Colorado, Arizona, and South Dakota.
In Michigan, voters approved a measure that banned the state from using affirmative action in public hiring, education, and contracting.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger won by a landslide and declared, “I love doing sequels.” In Massachusetts, Deval Patrick was elected governor. He will be the second elected black governor in the country’s history since Reconstruction.
In South Dakota, voters rejected a closely watched ballot measure that would have banned nearly all abortions in the state. In related abortion news, today the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the so-called partial-birth abortion ban. The WP notes the key swing vote will be Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.
The White House announced President Bush would hold a news conference today to discuss the election results. He is also expected to call Pelosi this morning to congratulate her.
In other news … Everybodymentions that Saddam Hussein struck a more cordial tone as he returned to the courtroom yesterday. Even though he was sentenced to death on Sunday, the former Iraqi president is on trial for a separate case, which involves the so-called Anfal military campaign that some claim killed as many as 180,000 Kurdish civilians. Instead of the defiant Hussein that was on display on Sunday, yesterday the former president was more courteous, asked questions, and, at one point, even seemed to call for an end to violence in Iraq. “I call on all Iraqis, Arabs and Kurds to practice tolerance and forgiveness, and to shake hands with each other,” Hussein said.
Most of the Israeli forces withdrew from Gaza Strip yesterday, ending a six-day operation that aimed to stop the firing of rockets into Israel. The Israeli forces claimed they had success in killing militants and recovering weapons. The Post cites Palestinian health officials claiming 62 people were killed (the NYT says the number of killed is “at least 52”). The withdrawal didn’t quite end the violence, and the LAT publishes a late-breaking wire report claiming 18 Palestinians were killed on Wednesday by Israeli tank fire.
A judge in London sentenced an al-Qaeda operative, who planned to bomb several landmarks in the United States and Britain, to life in prison yesterday. The confessed terrorist could get parole after 40 years. The NYT points out there was no real evidence presented at the trial that proved the plans were imminent.
On top of the usual difficulties associated with putting an Election Day newspaper to bed, things were surely more complicated for the LAT’s reporters and editors yesterday as they learned Dean Baquet, the paper’s editor, was forced to resign. Baquet had defied his Tribune Company bosses and publicly stated he opposed newsroom cuts, which appears to be the reason he was forced out. Last month, the paper’s publisher, who also opposed cuts, was fired. James O’Shea, the managing editor of the Chicago Tribune, will replace Baquet. Even though the announcement was supposed to come Thursday, the WSJ broke the story yesterday afternoon, which was promptly confirmed by Baquet. Today, the LAT puts the news on Page One.