Democrat Niki Tsongas, the widow of senator Paul Tsongas, cast her first vote in Congress on Thursday two days after winning a special election for the Massachusetts seat once held by her late husband. Tsongas, a former community college dean, narrowly defeated Republican Jim Ogonowski, despite a 3-to-1 spending advantage.
What the commentators said
Tsongas’ narrow victory “offers warnings to both Republicans and Democrats for 2008,” said E.J. Dionne Jr. in The Washington Post (free registration). She won, which “speaks to the continuing unpopularity of President Bush and the war in Iraq.” But she merely squeaked by, even though she had name recognition and a huge fundraising advantage in her late husband’s old Democratic turf. That suggests that Democrats can’t assume that Bush’s poll troubles have put them on “easy street.”
What a “weird” race, said Josh Marshall in TalkPointsMemo. “This is strong Democratic territory. It’s tempting to chalk this up to a case of “a really good Republican candidate” vs. a “really bad Democratic candidate.” Tsongas was “nominated largely on the basis of her husband’s reputation” by a stodgy local political machine, so maybe that’s why young voters didn’t warm up to her. “But only fools spin excuses and rationales” before they know the facts, so Democrats should see what they can learn from this race.
“The takeaway is simple,” said Sean P. Trende in HumanEvents.com. “People are not angry at all Republicans,” but they are “absolutely furious with Washington, D.C.” That’s great for the GOP. Dick Cheney “won’t run to succeed Bush,” so the party will have a fresh face in the presidential race. And Democrats will be fighting to keep their congressional majority in an “anti-insider year.” If other GOP candidates run as Ogonowski did—as “Joe Sixpack against the Washington establishment”—Democrats should be worried.