McAuliffe Dismisses Republican Victory; 'Not Much Has Changed'

Susan Jones | Morning Editor | Wednesday, November 6, 2002

McAuliffe Dismisses Republican Victory; 'Not Much Has Changed'

( - Last night's results do not reflect an ideological tilt in favor of Republicans, said Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe. In a press conference shortly before noon, McAuliffe refused to concede much to Republicans, calling their victories "tactical," not "ideological."

"I know that I cost the Bush family a little bit of money - they spent some campaign money they probably weren't planning on. And I know at Thanksgiving, when the Bush family goes to Kennebunkport, I know that Jeb will turn to George and say, 'Now we're even.'" (If it was a joke, no one in the audience laughed.)

McAuliffe said he's "very proud" of what the DNC as an institution did. "We spent three times more money than we have ever spent in a midterm election."

He touted "our strong victories in gubernatorial elections all across the country." He said it looks like Democrats have netted four gubernatorial seats. "Extraordinary," he called it later.

According to McAuliffe, no wonder Republicans won - given a "wartime president" who "made these elections his number-one domestic priority." McAuliffe also mentioned the Republican's strong fund-raising and "special interest money."

"So where do we find ourselves now?" McAuliffe asked rhetorically. "Basically, the same place we were after the 2000 election - fifty-fifty. Parity. Not much has changed.

"As I said, the Republicans' advantage was a tactical advantage, not an issue advantage. Last night's results simply don't reflect an ideological tip in favor of the Republicans...They clearly had the home field advantage."

"Bush has not changed the map, and he has not solidified the vote for Republicans."

Some television commentators described McAuliffe's tone as "sour grapes."

"Folks, Democrats are in good shape and we look forward to the upcoming cycle," McAuliffe said. He said it looks like Republicans didn't even muster one-third of the Hispanic vote they got in 2000; whereas Democrats have "solidified" their relationship with Hispanics.

"After all that Republicans talked about and all their efforts and all their money and all their pandering for the Hispanic vote, it added up to absolutely nothing. Which just goes to prove that a party's political outreach is only as strong as its underlying values."

He said Republicans made "hollow gestures" toward Hispanics - gestures that failed because "Republicans simply can't manage and don't share our commitment to issues that matter to the Hispanic community..."

"What now?" McAuliffe asked, referring to President Bush. "The burden of leadership now rests squarely on his shoulders and he has yet to prove that he can handle this he will have to produce.

"No more blame game. No more nonsense about a dysfunctional Senate. This is his sputtering economy - he must take responsibility for it." McAuliffe said the president must now spend all his time to "restoring the prosperity of the 1990s."

"The Bush era of responsibility starts today," he said.