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AFTER THE ELECTION

And the winners are ...

November 12, 2005

THE RESULTS ARE IN, AND THE biggest loser in the 2005 elections was

Still not convinced? Neither, to be honest, are we. All politics, as former House Speaker Tip O'Neill once said, is local, and this year the axiom seems especially true. About the only thing we learned for certain this week is that wealthy former Wall Street bankers do very well in the greater New York metropolitan area.

Michael R. Bloomberg, the newly reelected mayor of New York, and Jon Corzine, New Jersey's governor-elect, are both former partners in investment banks (Salomon Bros. and Goldman Sachs, respectively, for those scoring at home). Both are liberal Democrats, Corzine literally and Bloomberg metaphorically, while the governor-elect of Virginia, Timothy M. Kaine, is a more moderate strain of Democrat. Here in California, our own moderately conservative Republican governor -- or is it conservatively moderate? -- saw his special election go down in defeat.

So much for the results. We are now bobbing along successive waves of interpretation, which follow a pattern as predictable as the president's ties. The first wave, the obvious one, is that Democrats should feel vindicated because their candidates and causes won, and Republicans should be worried for the same reasons. What happened in New Jersey or California or Cedar Rapids could easily happen in Congress next year.

This is followed by the but-wait wave: Some Democrats won only because they acted like Republicans, and some Republicans lost because they were insufficiently Republican. (This logic applies equally in other elections when the parties are reversed.) In Virginia, for example, Kaine emphasized his religion, a longtime Republican ploy, while his opponent failed to oppose taxes vigorously. So maybe the Democrats should feel anxious, and the Republicans vindicated.

There are third waves, of course, and fourth and fifth ones, and eventually one of them will harden into the concrete of conventional wisdom. At which point, rest assured, we will be back to our original position: All politics is local. Especially when the elections themselves are.

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