What Voters Meant. The Nov. 6 elections revealed discontent heading into 2008
Off-year elections are rarely rousing affairs. But along with mayoral elections in cities like Houston, Pittsburgh and San Francisco, plus statehouse contests galore, the results have offered some clues to the larger national mood. How are voters feeling? Tightfisted, slightly libertarian and, above all, tired of corruption.
A split decision on Southern Governors After a single term marred by hiring scandals, GOP Governor Ernie Fletcher was bounced by Steve Beshear, a Democrat who had been out of politics since 1987. In Mississippi, GOP Governor Haley Barbour was re-elected easily, showing that he may be the only Gulf Coast politician whose fortunes were undimmed by Hurricane Katrina.
Rebuke for stem-cell research New Jersey Governor John Corzine spent $150,000 of his own money on a measure to create state-funded stem-cell research. But taxpayers balked at the $450 million price tag; pro-lifers fought it on moral grounds. It became the first statewide ballot initiative rejected by New Jersey voters in 17 years.
Pushback on the war on drugs Two local measures in the West called for authorities to make marijuana arrests and prosecutions a low priority. Denver and Hailey, Idaho, passed the initiatives. (Hailey also voted yes to industrial hemp and medical marijuana.) Possession remains a federal and state crime.
Obama's Saxophone Moments
THE TEMPTATION Candidates turn to popular culture for many reasons--to introduce themselves to a wide audience (Bill Clinton rocking shades and a sax on The Arsenio Hall Show in 1992), change their public image (Richard Nixon socking it to them on Laugh-In during the 1968 race) or remind voters that they're not actually Chevy Chase (Gerald Ford's press secretary, Ron Nesson, hosting Saturday Night Live at the start of the 1976 campaign). Recently Barack Obama, in need of a boost in the polls, popped up on both The Ellen DeGeneres Show and SNL.
DID IT WORK? Obama was all knees and elbows as he boogied to Beyoncé with Ellen, but he got in a few hip shakes and charmed the host. Similarly, his surprise SNL appearance was somewhat stiff--but ended with a flash of his famous grin.
Ron Paul and his supporters will surely "remember, remember the fifth of November." On the occasion of a British holiday that commemorates the thwarting of a 17th century plot by rebel Guy Fawkes to blow up Parliament (most recently referenced in graphic novel and film V for Vendetta), the libertarian Republican raised $4.2 million in 24 hours. The one-day total sets a record for GOP candidates, besting the previous top haul by more than $1 million.
GOD-O-METER Anointing Romney The man often described as the father of the religious right has thrown his support behind Mitt Romney, becoming the latest social conservative A lister to give the former Massachusetts Governor his blessing. In announcing his endorsement, Moral Majority co-founder Paul Weyrich praised Romney's "clear conservative vision" and "exceptional record of putting conservative values to work." And he sent a plain message to wavering Christian-right leaders who have threatened to bolt the GOP if either Romney, a Mormon and recent convert on abortion, or the pro-choice Rudy Giuliani are nominated: stay the course.
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