Accessibility links

Breaking News

Experts: Moderate Support Boosted Democrats in US Election

A number of experts say that political moderates may have been the big winners in Tuesday's U.S. congressional elections.

In the wake of the Democratic victories on Tuesday in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, Washington's virtual army of political experts, pundits and pollsters has been busy analyzing the results for major trends.

Among their conclusions is that Democrats did well, in part, because they did a better job of appealing to political centrists than did Republicans.

Karlyn Bowman monitors public opinion at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

"Republicans held their supporters and Democrats held theirs," she said. "But Democrats won independents by 57 [percent] to 39 [percent], their largest margin among this group in 20 years," she said.

Another AEI expert, longtime Congress watcher Norman Ornstein, says Democrats were able to tap into public frustration over political gridlock in Washington.

"To some degree, this was a revolt of the moderates in this election," he said. "It was people saying, 'you are doing nothing, you are caught up in bickering, why can't you do what we pay you for, which is to get something done there in Washington.'"

Leaders of both parties seem to be paying attention, at least for now.

President Bush and Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi of California both promised to cooperate following their first post-election meeting at the White House.

BUSH: "We will not agree on every issue, but we do agree that we love America equally, that we are concerned about the future of this country and that we will do our very best to address big problems."

PELOSI: "Recognizing that we have our differences and we will debate them and that is what our founders intended. But we will do so in a way that gets results for the American people."

Pelosi will become the first woman Speaker of the House when Democrats formally take control of Congress in January.

Many of the new Democrats coming to Congress are more moderate than some of their more veteran liberal colleagues.

Analyst Norman Ornstein says that will provide a challenge for Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate.

"You have got a significant number of centrists and that is something that both [Democratic Senate leader] Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are going to have to take into account all the time as they look ahead," he noted. "At the same time, we saw a significant departure of moderate Republicans in both houses."

Some experts believe the loss of Republican moderates in both the House and Senate could tilt the remaining Republicans in Congress in a more conservative direction.

Analysts are also debating the likelihood of compromise between President Bush and the new Democratic-led Congress on a range of issues including Iraq and immigration.

University of Virginia expert Larry Sabato says the Democratic gains in Congress could provide President Bush with an option he did not have when Republicans were in charge of the House and Senate.

"He has an extremely difficult two years in front of him," said Mr. Sabato. "No doubt, he will enjoy parts of it, because now he has somebody to blame. Anything that goes wrong, you can blame it on the Democratic Congress."

Others are more optimistic Congress and the White House will be able to work together.

Tim Curran edits a newspaper that covers Congress called Roll Call. He says changes in the congressional leadership could make compromise more likely.

"In terms of the bipartisanship, I am going to fly in the face of conventional wisdom here and say that I actually think there is an opportunity for the atmosphere to improve fairly significantly, if only for the fact of the personal relationships that either now exist or did not exist before," he noted.

In addition to winning the support of moderates in this election, voter surveys indicate that Democrats also made significant gains among women, Catholic voters and Hispanic Americans.