Golly, yesterday must have been a slow news day. I can't think of much to write about. I guess I'll have to improvise.
Here's my quick take on the elections, starting with El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia. First Governor Joe Manchin handily defeated Republican challenger John Raese for the late Robert C. Byrd's senate seat, although the race itself was a lot closer than most people expected. This means that state senate president Earl Ray Tomblin from Logan County will take over as governor, although it's not clear that he'll hold that seat until 2012 or whether there will be a special election between now and then.
There were ugly undertones to this race, some of which seemed to be racial in nature, as this WV News Service story suggests. Among these were signs equating Manchin with Obama (the signs were black on white). Still all that and tons of outside money weren't enough. The Manchin campaign seemed to get off to a slow start and sometimes appeared to try to outflank Raese from the right, a distinct impossibility, but eventually got on pace, even developing a sense of humor.
Manchin's victory was considered key to keeping a Democratic majority in the Senate, although his stands might occasionally drive his fellow Democrats crazy. In another time and place, Manchin might have been a moderate Republican. I always tell people from out of state who ask about him that as governor he's had good days and bad days, although in fairness his administration has been fairly accessible and he genuinely wants to reach out to as many (different) people as possible.
It was also interesting that southern WV congressman Nick Rahall handily defeated his Republican challenger Elliot "Spike" Maynard, again despite lots of outside money and the financial support of corporations like Massey Energy. If you recall, Maynard lost his state supreme court seat in 2008 after pictures emerged of him vacationing with Massey CEO Don Blankenship in Monaco. This marks the third indirect (or maybe not so indirect) defeat in a row for Blankenship.
As expected, Republican congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito kept her 2nd district seat. Republican candidate David McKinley narrowly defeated former state senator Mike Oliverio in the first district after longtime Democratic incumbent Alan Mollohan lost the primary. Oliverio was a conservative, pro-business candidate who alienated labor and other progressives in the legislature and he ran without their support. Some unions even endorsed his opponent and many others were indifferent to the outcome.
There was no Republican blowout at the state legislative level. Republicans appear to have gained four seats in the house, bringing their total to 33 out of 100 delegates. Democrats gained two seats in the state senate, bringing the total to 29 out of 34.
Democrat Tom McHugh retained his state supreme court seat in a close race with challenger John Yoder, a contest that was distinguished by its relative civility.
I will make only one comment about a US senate race in another state. Nevada senator Harry Reid survived a tough fight with Tea Party challenger Sharron Angle. I found it oddly amusing that among those who campaigned hard for Reid were mixed martial artists associated with the popular Ultimate Fighting Championship. Here's a little snip from Politico:
"The UFC is one of the most powerful brands in the world for reaching 18- to 30-year-olds," Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller said. "Anytime a candidate gets their endorsement, it sends a powerful message to that demographic."
Reid, a former boxer, apparently found some kindred spirits among UFC brawlers.
Moving on to national issues and struggles, here are just a few that appear to lie ahead:
*deficits versus recovery. Many economists (not to mention regular humans) fear that cuts in public spending could slow down the economic recovery and job growth. This is going to be a major issue given the new majority in the US House;
*health care reform versus repeal. The new majority has made no secret of its desire to repeal health care reform. They don't have enough of a majority to prevail in the Senate or to override a presidential veto, but they could attack funding streams. This will be a challenge all round, as many aspects of reform will probably prove to be quite popular, although major changes aren't scheduled to kick in until 2014. This will be a major fight.
*Social Security and Medicare. Those who enjoyed the 2005 fight to preserve Social Security can take consolation in the probability of having to take that on again.
*climate change. I have a feeling that the world has a relative short window to get its act together on this and that the first decade of the 21st century was pretty much wasted. I wouldn't hold out a lot of hope for the second decade either at this point. If this is going to go anywhere, there needs to be a movement behind it. And a lot of work has to be done here and in other energy producing states to figure out ways to deal with all the complicated issues of environment, energy, and economy.
Interesting times, huh?