WASHINGTON – Combat boots trumped cowboy boots.
The election produced winners and losers of all varieties, not all of them as obvious as the footwear of choice for the candidates whose Virginia battle sealed the Democrats’ rise to power in both houses of Congress.
In the win column: YouTube, Giorgio Armani suits, racy fiction by public figures, San Francisco, Arctic caribou, Rahm Emanuel, lobbyists who abide by the law and immigrants who didn’t.
Losers? How about gun control, Halliburton, the legend of Karl Rove, officials who know about secret prisons and might be forced to talk, and liberal bloggers who may find it harder to rage against the machine now that their side IS the machine on Capitol Hill?
Plus, a couple of senators who have the middle initial F, happen to speak French and put their feet in their mouths in English.
The mega trends are for all to see: Oil companies are likely to be losers, favorable royalty deals from the government at risk; and the poorest workers should win if Democrats raise the minimum wage as promised.
What’s left of organized labor can’t help but be pleased with seeing its traditional allies in control of Congress again, and prospects for legalizing the status of more immigrants brightened.
But the ups and the downs from Election Day go far beyond that, forming an eclectic scorecard of political, cultural and off-the-wall winners and losers:
Winners: Videographers, certain to be a fixture at campaign events from now on, capturing miscues for massive exposure on YouTube and beyond. Virginia Sen. George Allen’s “macaca” remark, an obscure racial slur directed at the rival campaign worker who was filming him, became the defining event of his losing campaign against Democrat Jim Webb, the man in combat boots.
Losers: Gun control advocates. Democrats see gun control as a radioactive issue for them in the past, have no taste for it now and wore their gun-owning credentials for all to see.
Winners: Howard Dean’s reputation as a liberal loose cannon now takes a back seat to the success of his strategy of putting money into traditionally Republican states. Even more credit may go to Rep. Emanuel, D-Ill., who helped engineer the House takeover by raising record amounts of money and leaning on safe incumbents to share their wealth with needier candidates.
Losers: Rove, a man assigned almost mythical powers to produce victory for President Bush and Republicans, got his comeuppance. Elizabeth Dole, as head of the GOP Senate campaign, was outgunned in fundraising by the Democrats.
Winners: Lobbyists. They thrive in the dual and dueling centers of power that exist in a divided government, and groups such as teachers’ and public employees’ unions will find a warmer welcome from the new congressional leadership.
Losers: Lobbyists. Those of Republican persuasion lose influence and those of any political leaning who play close to the ethical edge should – in theory – get the cold shoulder. Scrutiny will be intense on House Democrats to live up to their promise to lead the most honest and open Congress in history.
Winner: Speaker-in-waiting Nancy Pelosi has an Armani suit so nice she’s worn it for years – a blue-gray pantsuit and complementary blouse seen in her first news conference since Election Day and as far back as 2003. Her husband, Paul, known as Mr. P, picks out her wardrobe because, he says, “she hates to shop.”
Loser: Impolitic remarks. Democrat John Forbes Kerry, who unintentionally implied that dumb Americans end up fighting in Iraq; and George Felix Allen, who could never live down “macaca,” saw presidential prospects dim as a result of their miscues.
Winner: Blue, the color of the Democratic Party and of the ties worn by President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday in an apparent tribute to the Democratic leaders they met. “I was hoping you would notice that,” Bush said, after Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin commented on the tie choice.
Loser: John Bolton appears to be out as U.N. ambassador.
Winners: Both parties are looking eagerly to Republican James Baker III and Democrat Lee Hamilton to come up with something to help the U.S. out of the morass of the Iraq war in the coming report of their bipartisan Iraq Study Group.
Losers: Officials overseeing secretive detention and surveillance programs may be called to testify.
Winner: Big Lug. Democrat Chet Culver, fondly nicknamed Big Lug by his wife, won his race for Iowa governor.
Loser: Big Oil. Democrats are expected to try to force oil companies to renegotiate leases that allowed them to avoid royalty payments, and to roll back some $2.8 billion in tax breaks. Chances of allowing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, migratory grounds of northern caribou, have vanished.
Winner: Spicy fiction. Jim Webb’s old novels, some with sexually explicit passages played up by opponents, came back into fashion – the paperback version of his 28-year-old “Fields of Fire” breaking into the top 200 books sold by Amazon.com. (Allen’s campaign-year book was 704,850th on the chart on the day he conceded.)
Loser: China, because Democrats are more hostile to trade with it.
Winners: Trial lawyers are probably off the hook on Bush’s attempts to rein in medical malpractice awards.
Loser: All things associated with Cheney, including his former employer, Halliburton Co.
Winner: San Francisco, the Pelosi hometown that GOP attack ads love to hate.
Loser: Washington, D.C. The scandal-scarred capital that voters love to hate.