Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Three Big Elections

Yesterday proved to be a big day for people who watch politics. In Delaware, when tea party-backed Christine O’Donnell [picture] defeated Rep. Mike Castle for the GOP Senate nomination, Democrats effectively captured a senate seat they were supposed to lose in November. Now with 6 seats rated toss-ups, Democrats lead Republicans 49-45 in the RealClearPolitics count, meaning if one more seat goes Democratic, with Vice President Biden’s deciding vote Democrats will control the next Senate.

In nearby Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty lost his bid for re-election. That means School Superintendent Michelle Rhee [picture], whom Fenty hired and fully supported, will be gone by the end of the year—terrible news for those who believe in school reform.

Earlier in the day in Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan [picture] survived a bitter challenge to his leadership from political heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa, who was trying to win the poll for the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s presidency. Had the corrupt Ozawa won, he would have become prime minister, setting back a year’s worth of Japanese reform efforts.

Three elections; three big stories.

In Delaware, according to "RealClearPolitics’" Sean Trende, “O’Donnell really can’t win.” Why would the Tea Party and Sarah Palin work to take away a Republican senate seat (GOP loser Castle was favored to win in November), and help hand control of the Senate to Democrats? It’s like 1964, when Republicans’ suicidal nomination of Barry Goldwater handed Democrats a sweeping triumph that year. Except that 1964, the year after President Kennedy’s assassination, was a Democratic year anyway. And according to Trende, Castle was actually no shoe-in, perhaps especially if conservatives had stayed away following the bitter O’Donnell-Castle primary.

Before voters rejected Obama’s stimulus, ObamaCare, and Obama’s huge federal deficits, they were upset about the $800 billion Wall Street bailout engineered by Bush, Democrats, and Republicans in Congress in October 2008. Castle is yet another defeated Republican primary candidate who, as Delaware’s congressman, voted for the bailout.

In Washington D.C., I read the tea leaves wrong, saying that since Mayor Fenty backed Michelle Rhee’s firing of 241 low-performing teachers, he must have thought the firings would “work for him politically.” Today’s Washington Post analysis of what went wrong during Fenty’s re-election campaign lists Rhee’s teacher firings as one of the factors working against him.

In Tokyo, Ozawa’s even trying to unseat Kan at this early stage in the Prime Minister’s tenure (Kan just took over in June) shows how deeply divided is Japan’s leading party. Kan is scandal-free, in contrast to Ozawa and Kan’s predecessor, Yukio Hatoyama, both forced out of power and tainted by scandals that saw three aides indicted. But Ozawa is a political genius, the man who remade Japanese politics, and the one people believe can best engineer future changes. In order to survive, Kan probably has to win over Ozawa’s supporters by undertaking the very reforms Ozawa himself had promised to deliver.

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