The 2006 Midterm elections held in America proved to be a bloody nose for the Republican Party. On November 6th 2006, the Republican Party held a majority in both the House and Senate. By November 8th, the Democrats had a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. With two years left for his presidency, George W Bush will have to work with a Democrat Congress. Political pundits have already labelled the president a ‘lame duck’ though in the past a president from one party has worked with a Congress controlled by the other party. The day following the results, President Bush stated that he would work with Ms Nancy Pelosi, the new Speaker of the House, to ensure that legislation was not halted. Bush claimed that both could work with the other.
Prior to the midterms, the Republicans had a healthy majority of 30 in the House. After the November elections, the Democrats had a majority of 32 – with the Republicans winning 196 seats and the Democrats 228. In the Senate, the Republicans at the last round of elections in November 2004 had 55 Senators while the Democrats had 44. After the November 2006 midterms the Democrats had 49 Senators – the same as the Republicans. However with 2 Independent Senators expected to support the Democrats, the Republican ascendancy in the Senate appears to be over. One of the Independents is Senator Joseph Lieberman – a former Democrat Vice-Presidential running mate of Al Gore in 2000. It is generally assumed that he will go with the Democrat flow.
The most immediate casualty of the midterms was Donald Rumsfeld, US Defence Secretary, who resigned shortly after it became clear that the Republican Party had done badly in the midterms. The media has logically assumed that the whole issue of Iraq has been a major factor in the way the people voted – in what was a higher than expected voter turnout. However, just days before the midterms, George W Bush had stated that he wanted to keep Rumsfeld in power until January 2009. The plan is that Rumsfeld will be replaced by Robert Gates – the former head of the CIA and deputy national security advisor in the era of President Bush Snr. However, his appointment will have to be ratified by the Senate. Will the Democrat bolstered Senate accept the nomination or will it assert its new credentials? What is clear is that Rumsfeld was not a voluntary sacrificial lamb. When he departed his office as the second longest serving defence secretary, he quoted Winston Churchill: “I have benefited from criticism and I have not lacked thereof.”
The midterms have thrown up a number of ‘firsts’. Nancy Pelosi is the first female Speaker of the House; Keith Ellison will be the first Muslim in Congress. Robert Byrd won a ninth six-year term as senator for West Virginia – aged 88.
At state level, the Democrats won 20 of the 36 governorships at the polls. This included wins in New York, Ohio and Massachusetts. Deval Patrick became only the second black state governor in US history.