The Big O and the Big I | world | Hindustan Times
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The Big O and the Big I

world Updated: Nov 11, 2008 01:14 IST
V Krishna

The day came. And to America’s credit, it was ready to see a black President.

The rapper Nas, who sang, Yes We Can ... Change the World, was proved right.

Along with the White House, the winds of change blew through Congress. As expected, the Democrats padded their majority in the House of Representatives, to which elections are held every two years.

But the focus was on the Senate, where the Democrats had a thin 51-49 edge with the support of two independents. Members of that chamber are elected for staggered six-year terms, and 35 seats were in play this time. With three races still undecided, the Democrats have picked up six seats.

While their total is three short of the 60 needed to block delaying manoeuvres known as filibusters, the gains are impressive.

It is clearly the Big O’s triumph. But a closer look also gives us an idea of the power of incumbency in what has been described as the most exclusive club in the world. Incumbents usually enjoy a big fund-raising advantage over challengers, and campaigns are expensive.

Of the seats up for grabs, 12 are curently held by Democrats and 23 by Republicans. All the Democrats were running again, while five Republicans are retiring.

That meant the GOP lost the incumbency edge in those races. Its tally from the five: three lost (in the blue states of Colorado, New Mexico and Virginia) and two won (in the red states of Idaho and Nebraska).

The GOP’s other three losses also came in states that voted for Obama in the presidential election (John Sununu in New Hampshire, Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina and Gordon Smith in Oregon).

And Sununu and Dole are both first-termers.

So far the Republicans have won 14 seats (for a total of 40).

One of the undecided races involves veteran Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska. Stevens, who was convicted of corruption last month, leads his Democratic challenger Mark Begich, the mayor of Anchorage, by 3,257 votes with about 81,000 ballots still to be counted. During his 40-year tenure, Stevens has secured funding for dozens of local projects.

PS: John Murtha, the long-time Democratic Congressman from western Pennsylvania who said some of his constituents are racists, was re-elected. He has used his seniority to earmark money for projects in the area.