How Bad Was the Damage?

Donald Lambro sizes up the results of the election of two weeks ago, and finds some silver linings among the clouds.
First, many of the races were very close, especially in the House, where two dozen were decided by two percentage points or less, suggesting that “voters are still narrowly divided politically.”
Second, the Republicans who fared best, Lambro says, were generally those who ran as conservatives and stayed true to Republican principles. Is this right? It is consistent with what a number of Republicans have said post-election, but Lambro offers no hard proof. Among others, he quotes Minnesota’s Republican Party Chairman, Ron Carey:

In the tight races where we had candidates who articulated the core issues like low taxes, less government and strong family values, those are the candidates that prevailed in our competitive races.

Carey cites the example of our friend Michele Bachmann, who ran a great race and easily won the open seat in Minnesota’s Sixth District. But how about Gil Gutknecht, another strong conservative, who lost in Minnesota’s First? I’m not aware that Gil turned away from his conservative roots. Nor did strong Republican candidates like state auditor Pat Anderson, who was swept out of office–despite being endorsed by the Minneapolis Star Tribune!–in the Democratic tide.
It seems likely that the Republican candidates who stuck strongly to conservative, small government themes were, on the average, the ones who were running in solidly Republican districts, where those themes would resonate best. Those who trimmed their sails were probably more likely to be running in swing districts, and thus more likely to lose no matter how they campaigned.
I don’t view the 2006 election as a repudiation of conservatism; other issues, especially the war and “corruption,” predominated, and the Congress was criticized mostly for its lack of conservatism, i.e., out of control spending and earmarks. But I can’t see, even from the most optimistic perspective, how an election in which voters decided to put their trust in the Democrats can be seen as a victory for conservatism, either.

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