It’s A Sweep: Democrats Take The Senate and House

Rumsfeld Ousted As Secretary of Defense

by Glynn Wilson

The sweep is final and complete. The Democrats will now control a majority in both the Senate and the House for the first time since 1994 as the two close races still in play on Wednesday in Montana and Virginia ended up going to the Democrats, according to the Associated Press and other news organizations.

Jim Webb’s close victory over incumbent Sen. George Allen gave Democrats their 51st seat in the Senate, an astonishing turnabout at the hands of voters unhappy with Republican scandal and unabated violence in Iraq, according to the AP, which called the race first this evening.

The Senate teetered at 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans and one independent for most of Wednesday, with Virginia hanging in the balance. Webb’s victory ended Republican hopes of eking out a 50-50 split, with Vice President Dick Cheney wielding tie-breaking authority.

The AP contacted election officials in all 134 localities where voting occurred, obtaining updated numbers Wednesday. About half the localities said they had completed their postelection canvassing and nearly all had counted outstanding absentees. Most were expected to be finished by Friday.

The new AP count showed Webb with 1,172,538 votes and Allen with 1,165,302, a difference of 7,236.

An adviser to Allen, speaking on condition of anonymity because his boss had not formally decided to end the campaign, told the AP the senator wanted to wait until most of canvassing was completed before announcing his decision, possibly as early as Thursday evening. The adviser said that Allen was disinclined to request a recount if the final vote spread was similar to that of election night.

The victory puts Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., in line to become Senate majority leader.

Combined with the major victory in taking over the House of Representatives on Tuesday by re-capturing at least 27 seats and leading in four other races, Election Day 2006 was a repudiation of the failed policies of President George W. Bush.

In an acknowledgement of that defeat and the failed war strategy in Iraq, the president handed the Democrats the head of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in a last gasp attempt to appear willing to acknowledge mistakes and avoid total lame duck status by appearing to be willing to work in a non-partison fashion for his last two years in office.

Rumsfeld resigned with a short statement in which he quoted the great British war strategist of World War II Winston Churchill.

To paraphrase Richard Nixon, let’s make one thing perfectly clear. Mr. Rumsfeld, you are no Winston Churchill.

Bush replaced Rumsfeld with Robert Gates, who may come under close scrutiny during his Senate confirmation hearings, which will now be led by Democrats, for his controversial role in the Iran-Contra scandal when he worked for then-Vice President George H.W. Bush in the late 1980s.