The Situation: Wednesday, November 9
Editor's Note: The Situation Report is a running log of dispatches, quotes, links and behind-the-scenes notes filed by the correspondents and producers of CNN's Washington Bureau. Watch "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer on CNN 4 p.m. ET to 6 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. ET to 8 p.m. ET weekdays.
Grassley aide assault
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Posted 1:54 p.m. ET
The FBI says it is investigating an assault last week on an aide to Sen. Charles Grassley at her suburban Virginia home. "We're looking into it to see if there (were) any federal violations," an FBI spokeswoman said.
Emilia DiSanto, chief investigative counsel for the Senate Finance Committee, which Grassley chairs, was struck repeatedly as she arrived home last Wednesday. Fairfax County Police said DiSanto was unloading her belongings at her home when she was attacked by someone who police believe may have been wearing a ski mask.
Police describe the suspect as a white male, about 6 feet 1 inch tall, 185 pounds, who was wearing all black clothing. DiSanto was treated at a hospital for some of the injuries. "He struck her several times in the upper body. She screamed, and her assailant fled," a police statement said.
"The Nov. 2 attack is under investigation by local and federal authorities," said Jill Kozeny, a spokeswoman for Grassley. "A work-related connection hasn't been ruled out, but there is no evidence of one at this point either, according to law enforcement investigators. Grassley staff members have been informed of what is known and not known about the attack on Emilia DiSanto and advised to be cautious until the matter is resolved."
Grassley said Wednesday that DiSanto is back at work.
Posted 11:20 a.m. ET
One of New Jersey Governor-elect Jon Corzine's first duties as governor next year will be to hand-pick the successor to his U.S. Senate seat. Though this is an unusual situation, it is not unprecedented. At least three other U.S. Senators in the past 50 years have been in the same position, with mixed results: Marion Price Daniel, D-Texas, in 1957; Pete Wilson, R-California, in 1991; and Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, in 2002.
Murkowski was elected Alaska's governor in 2002 and appointed his daughter Lisa Murkowski to replace him in the Senate. The younger Murkowski ran for a full term in 2004 and won a competitive race against Democrat Tony Knowles, the man her father replaced as governor.
Wilson tapped fellow Republican John Seymour as his Senate replacement in 1991, but Seymour went on to lose the special election to complete the rest of Wilson's term to Democrat Dianne Feinstein.
Daniel of Texas was elected governor in 1956 and appointed lawyer William Arvis Blakely to the U.S. Senate in early 1957. Blakely served for only three months, then decided not to run in the special election to complete the rest of Daniel's term. Then in 1958, Blakely decided to run for the same seat he had given up just a year earlier. He lost. But when Lyndon Johnson resigned his Senate seat in 1961 to become Vice President, Gov. Daniel once again appointed Blakely to the Senate, where this time he went on to serve five months, before losing the special election to complete the rest of Johnson's term. Blakely died in 1976 with the unusual distinction of having served two separate stints in the U.S. Senate for a cumulative total of eight months.
The lesson for Corzine: choose carefully. Appointed senators have a lousy track record at the polls compared to other Senate incumbents. Of the past 30 appointed senators, a paltry one-third have gone on to run for and win the seat in their own right. Here is the Hall of Fame of appointed senators and how they fared on their own, courtesy of the good folks at the Senate Historian's Office:
Not So Much:
Thanks, But No Thanks:
The Morning Grind
Posted 9:35 a.m. ET
Democrats scored victories last night by winning gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, while California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger suffered a staggering defeat as Golden State voters rejected all four of ballot initiatives he promoted.
Democrats immediately cast Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine's win over Republican nominee Jerry Kilgore in Virginia and U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine's defeat of GOP nominee Doug Forrester in New Jersey as a referendum on President Bush's stewardship of the country. Democratic leaders predicted the 2005 elections would provide Democrats with momentum going into the midterm contests.
"The trend for the Democrats going into 2006 is strong and continuing," said U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (New York), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "It's going to be a real shot in the arm for Democratic efforts to take back the House and Senate in 2006."
Schumer and U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Illinois), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, will hold a 12:15 briefing on the election results today at the Democratic National Committee headquarters. DNC Chairman Howard Dean and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, hold a similar presser at 1:30 p.m.
All 435 seats in the House, 33 seats in the Senate and 36 governor's seats will be on the line in the 2006 midterm elections.
Even before the results were official, Republicans sought to downplay losses in New Jersey and Virginia saying that each race was about local issues. But a GOP political strategist, with close ties to Congressional Republican leaders, acknowledged the president could become a campaign issue next year.
"I think if people are looking at how to look at Bush and his potential impact, have them look at job approval (numbers) not these two races," said the strategist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
In several recent polls, Bush's approval rating has registered just below 40 percent, and his 11th hour visit to Virginia did not help Kilgore's campaign. Kaine garnered 52 percent of the vote to Kilgore's 46 percent.
Kaine's victory in a so called "red state" is expected to help boost Gov. Mark Warner's bid for the White House, should he seek the Democratic nomination in 2008. Kaine's win is being credited in part to Warner, who enjoys strong approval ratings after serving four years in office.
While Warner has not officially announced plans to pursue a White House bid, the Virginia governor has met informally with potential supporters and formed a leadership political action committee to serve as his political arm.
"We have a positive story to tell and will take that comparison with how things are working in Washington right now," said a Warner adviser, who asked not to be named.
Corzine's 10 percentage point win over Forester means New Jersey will have a new U.S. Senator in January, when he appoints a successor to serve the final 12 months of his term. U.S. Reps. Robert Andrews, Robert Menendez and Frank Pallone have all been jockeying to be appointed to the seat, which would give them an advantage as they seek their own six year term next year. Acting Gov. Richard Codey (D) is another potential appointee for the seat. It is not yet clear who Corzine will choose, but Democrats on Capitol Hill said they would try to persuade Corzine not to choose a caretaker for the seat. State Sen. Tom Keane Jr., the son of beloved former Gov. Thomas Kean (R), is the frontrunner for the Republican Senate nomination next year.
"We don't want a placeholder," said a Senate Democratic leadership aide, who would only speak on the condition of anonymity. "We want someone who would likely be the frontrunner for the Senate race."
In California, Schwarzenegger failed to convince voters to support his "reform agenda," and he must now regroup for his own reelection bid in 2006. Specifically, Californians dismissed Schwarzenegger's call to give him more power over the budget; increase the amount of time a public school teacher needs to serve before achieving tenure; take redistricting powers out of the hands of lawmakers; and require public unions to ask permission from its membership before using their dues for political purposes.
As his ballot measures were heading for defeat last night, Schwarzenegger suggested they would not have an impact on his future ability to govern or his upcoming campaign.
"Whether we win, lose or draw, whatever the outcome is, there is one thing we will do: We are going to continue to make California a better place for our citizens here and for our people of this great, great state," he said.
Despite Schwarzenegger's losses last night, a senior aide to a California Democratic congressman said the governor will still be a formidable candidate in 2006. "In California, there is always a second act," said the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The outcome of another California ballot measure that would require minors to notify their parents before they receive an abortion remained unclear.
In other notable ballot measures, a redistricting initiative similar to Schwarzenegger's proposal in California was overwhelmingly rejected in Ohio, while a measure to overturn a 9.5 cent gas tax in Washington State appeared headed for defeat, the Associated Press reports. Texans approved an amendment to the state constitution that bans same sex marriage, but Maine voters defeated a measure that would have struck down a recently passed law outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation.
There were mixed results for incumbent mayors in Tuesday's elections with a Minnesota Democrat who supported Bush in 2004 going down in defeat and a New Hampshire Democrat who backed Sen. John Kerry's (D-Massachusetts) presidential bid losing to his Republican challenger.
St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly lost to fellow Democrat and former city councilmember Chris Coleman, 70 percent to 30 percent in a race that was shaped by Kelly's highly publicized endorsement of Bush in last year's election. And Manchester Mayor Robert Baines (D) was upset in his bid for another term by Alderman Frank Guinta (R) 51 percent to 48 percent. Baines, a major player in the state's Democratic politics, was helped during the campaign by several Democrats, who are eyeing 2008 presidential bids. Kerry, who Baines endorsed in the 2004 presidential contest, even detailed a staffer to the Baines campaign, as did Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin). Sens. Joe Biden (D-Delaware) and Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) recently campaigned in Manchester on Baines behalf.
A Democratic campaign strategist said the efforts of all the candidates for Baines will eventually help them if they seek the presidential nomination in 2008.
"Every single one of them who helped out on the Baines campaign has the benefit of helping a Democrat in New Hampshire, growing their potential volunteer and get-out-the vote lists and training operatives on the ground in key precincts in Democratic primaries," said the strategist, who asked not be named.
In big city races, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) easily cruised to victory by defeating Fernando Ferrer (D) by a 59 percent to 39 percent margin. Meanwhile, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick successfully held off a challenge from fellow Democrat Freman Hendrix by 53 percent to 47 percent spread. The F.B.I. announced yesterday it has opened an investigation to determine whether some of the ballots were invalid. There are suggestions that ballots were cast by dead people.
In another race to lead a major city, Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell was defeated in her reelection bid by fellow Democrat and City Council President Frank Jackson. Jackson took 55 percent of the vote to Campbell's 45 percent. And San Diego City Councilwoman Donna Frye's bid to move into the mayor's office fell short as she lost to former police chief Jerry Sanders (R).
Political Hot Topics
Posted: 9:35 a.m. ET
EASY WIN FOR CORZINE: With stunning ease, Democrat Jon Corzine was elected governor of New Jersey yesterday, defeating Republican Doug Forrester in a campaign that turned out to be the most expensive and negative the state has ever seen. With more than 97 percent of voting districts reporting, Corzine had garnered more than 1.1 million votes, or 53 percent to Forrester's 44 percent. Corzine was ebullient in victory. Bounding onto the stage before 1,800 jubilant supporters in an East Brunswick hotel ballroom, he pounded the podium and exulted in what he called a "rejection of Bush-Rove tactics" that had sullied the contest. Newark Star-Ledger: CORZINE ROMPS
KAINE WINS IN VA: Democrat Timothy M. Kaine easily defeated Republican Jerry W. Kilgore for governor last night, dealing the GOP a blow in a second consecutive gubernatorial election. The contest for governor was also a defeat for President Bush, who put his prestige on the line Monday night by making an eleventh-hour campaign stop for Kilgore. The Kaine victory continues a happenstance that has occurred in every Virginia election since Republican John N. Dalton won in 1977. In the seven gubernatorial elections since, the winning candidate for governor came from a different party than the winner of the presidency a year earlier. Bush carried Virginia handily a year ago. Richmond Times-Dispatch: Democrat Tim Kaine elected governor
BLOOMBERG WINS BY 20 IN NYC: A triumphant Mayor Bloomberg celebrates his resounding victory over Fernando Ferrer last night with a throng of his supporters at the Sheraton hotel. It's one for the history books. Mayor Bloomberg romped his way to a second term for mayor last night, crushing Democrat Fernando Ferrer 58.5% to 38.7% - the widest margin ever for a Republican mayor of New York. With all precincts counted, Bloomberg had thrashed Ferrer by 19.8 percentage points - just eclipsing Fiorello LaGuardia's 1937 win and ensuring that a Republican holds the keys to City Hall for an unprecedented fourth consecutive term. New York Daily News: Bloomberg wins by a KO
CA VOTERS SAY NO, NO, NO, AND NO: In a sharp repudiation of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Californians rejected all four of his ballot proposals Tuesday in an election that shattered his image as an agent of the popular will. Voters turned down his plans to curb state spending, redraw California's political map, restrain union politics and lengthen the time it takes teachers to get tenure. The Republican governor had cast the four initiatives as central to his larger vision for restoring fiscal discipline to California and reforming its notoriously dysfunctional politics. Los Angeles Times: Voters Reject Schwarzenegger's Bid to Remake State Government
TOUGH BLOW FOR GOP? After months of sagging poll ratings, scandal and general political unrest, the Republicans badly needed some good news in Tuesday's elections for governor. What they got instead was a clear-cut loss in a red state, and an expected but still painful defeat in a blue one. The Republican loss in Virginia, which President Bush carried with 54 percent just a year ago, came after an 11th-hour campaign stop by Mr. Bush and the kind of all-out Republican effort to mobilize the vote that reaped rich rewards last year. Republicans argued on Tuesday that Virginia was a local election driven by local events, with little long-term national significance. But the loss clearly stung, as did the double-digit defeat in New Jersey, a blue state that had seemed within reach for the Republicans. New York Times: Stinging Defeats for G.O.P. Come at a Sensitive Time
DEMS SEIZE ON MOMENTUM: Within an hour of Virginia being called, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) released a statement claiming his party now has the big mo. "With just less than a year until Congressional elections in 2006, Democrats have gained momentum with a clear vision for progress and a national mood firmly united against the leadership of national Republicans," Emanuel said. Across the Capitol, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) echoed that sentiment, calling the off-year election victories "a real shot in the arm for Democratic efforts to take back the House and Senate in 2006." Roll Call: Democrats Predict Success in '06 Following Gubernatorial Sweep
REPUBLICANS CALL FOR NEW LEAK PROBE: Congress's top Republican leaders yesterday demanded an immediate joint House and Senate investigation into the disclosure of classified information to The Washington Post that detailed a web of secret prisons being used to house and interrogate terrorism suspects. The Post's article, published on Nov. 2, has led to new questions about the treatment of detainees and the CIA's use of "black sites" in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. The issue dogged President Bush on his recent trip to Latin America and has created consternation in Eastern Europe. Washington Post: GOP Leaders Urge Probe in Prisons Leak
ALITO AD STORM ON HOLD FOR NOW: The media battle among conservative and liberal interest groups over Judge Samuel Alito's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court has begun, but it will be a quiet rumble until January. Groups that have lined up for and against the conservative federal judge have rolled out a few TV and radio ads. But the Senate Judiciary Committee's decision not to begin confirmation hearings on President Bush's latest high court nominee until Jan. 9 means that what is likely to be a spirited barrage of ads won't begin until after the holidays. Advertising analysts say there's no point in trying to get the public's attention on the Alito nomination until after then. USA Today: Alito ad storm waiting to strike after the holidays
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