McAuliffe Dismisses Republican Victory; 'Not Much Has Changed'

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:29 PM EDT

(1st Add: Includes comments from Republican National Committee Chairman Marc Racicot.)

( - 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.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Republican National Committee Chairman Marc Racicot didn't attack Democrats directly but gave enormous credit for the GOP's election success to President Bush's popularity and a good crop of GOP candidates at all levels, especially in retaining control of the House and regaining a majority in the Senate.

"We had an advocate (President Bush) that has a significantly large amount of confidence placed in him by the public and his capacity to lead," said Racicot.

"I believe the American people almost universally have accumulated credibility for this president, they believe in his honesty and his decency and as a consequence of that conclusion, that they have drawn, they are entitled to believe him when he makes his arguments to them," he said.

Racicot further praised Bush because he advocated to Americans that "he would like the opportunity to get more accomplished than what he had been able to be accomplished over the course of the preceding two years."

GOP candidates at all levels this year, Racicot believes were "energetic and wonderfully talented and very dedicated to the efforts that they had undertaken. They were supported and lifted up by an extraordinarily large number of very good and decent people across the country."

"I believe our candidates spoke to the simple issues that are on the minds of the American people and as a consequence of that, they have provided the Republicans in Congress and the President of the United States the opportunity to move an agenda forward in a bipartisan way that will afford all of us the chance to accomplish good things on behalf of the American people," he said.

Racicot noted that President Bush has never been interested in "longevity" but interested in "getting things done." "I think that what the election results suggest is that now with the ability to set the agenda that these issues will be resolved in one fashion or another with more speed and dispatch."

Some of the main issues, according to Racicot, are homeland security, the economy, passing balanced budgets and making sure the government's fiscal house is in order.

"We're ready to go to work and proceeding in a bipartisan way to assume this new responsibility and to move forward with addressing the issues of import to the American people," he concluded.