Everyone is talking about whether there will be a Democratic wave tonight. That’s an important question, to be sure. But there are other, perhaps more telling, waves to watch for.
The central issue of the 2OO6 election season has been the war in Iraq. But that does not mean that every House and Senate contest will provide a clear read on sentiments regarding the conflict. In many contests, Democratic and Republican candidates have spun their stances on the questions of how and when to bring the troops home. A few Republicans are actually emphasizing their support for some sort of exit strategy — including contenders in tight races, such as Rhode Island’Senator Lincoln Chafee, and Iowa Congressman Jim Leach, both of whom voted against authorizing President Bush to use force, and Connecticut Congressman Chris Shays, whose conversion from a strong pro-war stance would seem to have a lot to do with the tough challenge he faces from war-critic Diane Farrell. On the other hand, several high-profile Democratic challengers, including Nebraska House candidate Scott Kleeb, have explicitly opposed setting a timeline for withdrawal of the troops,
But there are certainly enough clear contests to make it possible to detect whether we’ll see an anti-war wave tonight.
The first polling places to close tonight will be in Indiana and Kentucky, at 6 p.m. EST. In a Louisville-based House district, Democrat JOHN YARMUTH, an alternative newspaper publisher, has a chance of upsetting Republican incumbent Anne Northrup. Yarmuth has made his opposition to the war a central focus of his campaign from the start, and he’s gotten so much traction that Northrup has started to break with the administration — using the now-common dodge of calling for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to resign. If Yarmuth wins, it will send a clear signal about the viability of the anti-war message.
.At 7 p.m. EST, polls close in Virginia, where embattled Republican Senator George Allen faces a strong challenge from Democrat JIM WEBB. Webb, a veteran who was a Reagan administration appointee, switched parties and got into the race because of his fury over the war. Allen has stumbled frequently during this campaign, but at the end of the day a Webb win will say a lot about whether southern voters are as upset as voters in the rest of the country about the mess in Iraq.
At 7:3O p.m. EST, polls close in Ohio, where Democratic challenger SHERROD BROWN has highlighted his vote in the House against authorizing Bush to invade Iraq, complained about the cost of the war and called for an exit strategy from the start of his race against Republican incumbent Mike DeWine. A Brown win cannot be seen an anything but a big victory for anti-war forces., The same goes for a win by Democrat ZACK SPACE, who is running for the seat opened up by the decision of disgraced Republican Congressman Bob Ney to quit Congress. Space has made his anti-war stance a prime feature of his campaign in a traditionally Republican district.