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Conservative Strategists See Silver Lining in New Congress
Kenneth R. Timmerman,
Thursday, Nov. 9, 2006

 WASHINGTON, D.C. -- While Democrats picked up 26 House seats in Tuesday's election, giving them a narrow majority, the next Congress could actually be more conservative than the outgoing one, Republican strategists tell Newsmax.

 The rout of Republicans was a repudiation of the Party and especially of president and the war in Iraq, "but not of conservatism," these strategists believe. They cited incoming Democrats who were far to the right of Nancy Pelosi and the current Democratic Party leadership, in addition to new, more conservative Republican Members.

 In Arizona's fifth district, for example, Republican J.D. Hayworth, who made border security his signature issue, lost to a Democrat who attacked him for not being tough enough on border security.

 "We need members of Congress who are willing to enforce the law, produce real immigration reform, and stop playing politics with the issue," Democrat Harry Mitchell wrote in a June 2006 oped. Mitchell said he opposed amnesty for illegal aliens and supported a high-tech border fence.

 Nineteen of the House seats Republicans lost went to the Democrats by fewer than 5,000 votes; four seats were lost by margins of just 1,000 votes.

 But conservative Republicans lost just three net seats, and will actually become "the majority of the minority" in the next Congress, said Mike Bober, Executive Director of the House Conservatives Fund, a political action committee supported by the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC).

 The RSC expects to have more than one hundred members in the next Congress out of the total 196 Republicans, making it far and away the most powerful political caucus in the next Congress.

 Nine candidates endorsed by the House Conservatives Fund won open seats in Tuesday's elections.

 Minn. 6: Michelle Bachmann, who many conservatives see as a rising star;

 Fla. 13: Vern Buchanan, who won the seat vacated by failed U.S. Senate candidate Katherine Harris;

 Tenn. 1: David Davis, who campaigned proudly as a conservative. (His campaign website is "") Davis bested four conservative independents in addition to his Democrat opponent, Rick Trent.

 Ohio-4: Jim Jordan, a former state legislator who openly campaigned on conservative values in a state where Republicans had so many problems.

 Colo.-5: Doug Lamborn, a state legislator who won the vacant Joel Hefley seat.

 Ill.-6: Personal injury lawyer and former state legislator Pete Roskam achieved a "big win" by keeping outgoing House Foreign Affairs committee chairman Henry Hyde's seat in the Republican column.

 Idaho-1: Bill Sali, known as a "firebrand," who is ready to dive right into the partisan battles in Washington.

 Neb.-3: Adrian Smith, who ran as a "homegrown conservative" after his predecessor Tom Osborne stepped aside to make a failed run for Governor.

 Mich.-7: Tim Walberg, who beat liberal Republican Joe Schwartz in a hotly contested primary, and won on Tuesday with support from the free-market Club for Growth.

 Several of these nine candidates won in competitive districts that don't normally elect conservatives.

 Republican Study Committee Chairman Mike Pence praised them for providing "bright hope for conservatives& amidst the disappointing news of a majority lost." They were elected "to fulfill the hopes of millions of Americans who cherish limited government, fiscal discipline and traditional moral values," Pence said.

 Conservatives also welcomed the election of Mary Fallin, Oklahoma's lieutenant governor since 1995, who took the open seat vacated by Republican Ernest Istook (OK-5). She was the only conservative to hold onto a seat being vacated by an outgoing RSC member, Bober said.

 The Republican National Committee leadership and the White House had been telling conservative activists for months that the Republican Party could contain the damage done by public exasperation over the war in Iraq, and that most House seats would be decided on local issues.

 "But localizing did not happen," Bober said.

 Republican strategists have divided their losses into four categories: seats lost because Republicans were touched by scandal or otherwise "self-destructed;" seats lost because of the retirement of a popular Member; seats that were competitive to begin with; and seats where candidates were "simply unprepared," and failed to recognize they would face a serious challenge this November.

 But conservative values was not identified as a cause for Tuesday's losses.

 "Same sex marriage has been on the ballot in 28 states," one strategist said, "and we won in 27 of those."

 Constitutional amendments defining marriage as between a man and a woman passed this year by wide margins in seven out of eight states (Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Colorado, South Dakota, and Idaho).

 Arizona was the only state that voted down a marriage amendment. But Republican strategists note that the language on the Arizona ballot was so convoluted ("three double-negatives") that it left many voters confused.

 "Democrats went out and recruited candidates who sounded like us," said Cleta Mitchell, an attorney with Foley & Lardner who advises the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. "They were pro-gun, pro life, and opposed runaway spending."

 The conservatism of the incoming Democrat majority has got some liberals enraged, because it means impeachment hearings are less likely to be on the agenda of the next Congress.

 Marshall Wittman, a former advisor to Senator John McCain who supported John Kerry for president in 2004 and now advises the Democratic Leadership Council, believes "the central reason that the Democrats have achieved their major triumph is that they captured the center that was abandoned by the GOP."

 Wittman pointed to the victory of Sen. Joe Lieberman as an independent as key to revitalizing the Democratic Party.

 Lieberman's victory was a "massive repudiation" of the Party's dominant left wing, that should "send a powerful message to the '08 wannabees that winning the affections of the activists does not translate into victory in the general election - even in a state as blue as Connecticut," Wittman said.

 Conservative icon Paul Weyrich, who heads the Free Congress Foundation in Washington, cautioned Republicans about thinking they can easily roll back Tuesday's losses in the 2008 elections. "The Democrats educate their people in the Breznev doctrine," he said. "They believe they can hold their seats for life."

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