October 17th, 2007
05:45 PM ET
11 years ago

Republican to Democrats: Watch Out

Tsongas won a special election Tuesday night.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - What does a special election in Massachusetts have to do with next year’s battle for Congress?

A lot, Republicans hope. The Democrat beat the Republican in Tuesday’s contest, but the GOP sees victory in defeat.

The widow of the late Sen. Paul Tsongas won the special election to fill the unexpired term of Rep. Marty Meehan. The Massachusetts Democrat resigned from Congress earlier this year to become the Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Niki Tsongas defeated Republican Jim Ogonowski, a former Air Force pilot whose brother was piloting one of the hijacked airliners that crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11, in a hard fought battle for the state’s 5th Congressional District, which partially borders New Hampshire.

Tsongas, whose late husband once held the same congressional seat before being elected to the Senate, topped Ogonowski 51% to 46%.

And that’s what the Republicans are crowing about.

Massachusetts is a very blue state and this district is dominated by Democrats. It overwhelming went for Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election and John Kerry four years later. Meehan won 67 percent of the vote in his 2004 re-election bid, and was unopposed last year.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, says, “Democrats have a reason to worry. In a race that should have been won in a walk, Democrats were forced to funnel a massive amount of resources and dispatch an all-star cast of liberal icons at the 11th hour in order to ensure victory. As their approval ratings have shown, people have already grown angry with the Democrat-led Congress. In a little over nine months, they have gone from being perceived as agents of change and the answer to the problem in Washington to becoming the actual problem. Jim Ogonowski, while unsuccessful in his bid to change Washington, just opened the door for future Republican candidates seeking a path to victory in 2008.”

Jennifer Crider, communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, says in response, “If Tom Cole truly believes that, he should have invested in the race.” Crider continued, saying, “If Republicans are serious, they need to win this type of race and they couldn’t do it.”

Republicans may be hoping that the Massachusetts 5th special election becomes this cycle’s Ohio 2nd .

Iraq war veteran and Democrat Paul Hackett nearly won a special election in August 2005 in Ohio’s predominantly Republican second district. The race grabbed a lot of media attention and both parties poured a lot of money into the contest. The race became a bellwether race for the following year’s midterm elections, in which the Democrats grabbed back control of both parties of Congress.

But will the special election in Massachusetts become a bellwether for next year’s congressional elections?

It’s true that the approval rating for the Democrat-controlled Congress is in the toilet. But right now, it appears the Democrats are in the driver’s seat. Republicans are saddled with an unpopular president and an unpopular war, and they’re facing 12 retirements in the House and five in the Senate.

- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser

Filed under: Congress
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Wallace, Chicago IL

    "The widow of the late Sen. Paul Tsongas won the special election to fill the unexpired term of Rep. Marty Meehan."

    Not sure what there is to worry about. A candidate who simply ran because of her name won in a close special election? If anything, I think it shows that voters are more concerned with the issues and don't automatically vote for the "safe bet".

    It's good to see that name recognition is losing some of the "luster" it had years ago. I hope that continues.

    Hmmm... looking at the issues and not the "brand name recognition" of the candidate's name. Now that is a concept.


    October 17, 2007 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  2. Peter

    Its "democratically lead" not "Decmorat lead" you jerk!

    October 17, 2007 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  3. Patrick, New york, NY

    Is that all these lame Rupublicans have to say lame moral victories...these guys are pathetic and the headline should be Democrats TO Republicans: WATCH OUT because if the last election was a thumpin this election is going to be a major THRASHIN..cant wait for 08!!

    October 17, 2007 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  4. ronnie - knoxville tn.

    That's really close. Massachusetts better watch out. Their high tax empire isn't long for this world.

    October 17, 2007 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  5. pheobe, lowell, Mass

    This lady comes to Tsogas Arena next to my house all the time where they meet with Clintons. Now that is what you have to worry about! They come to Double tree hotel in Lowell Mass and I am glad to say Name Recognition is no longer something to give honour in this country anymore. It just look like we don't know her because I worry about what someone gonna do and how to make or ruin the rest of my life. CNN do you get it?

    October 17, 2007 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  6. George, Billerica, Mass.

    Democrats are not being smart. Winning by 5% in this district (mine) should be embarassing. Immigration was the driving force for many voters who voted Republican. They may vote for a Democratic President next year, but could also hedge their bets on immigration, an issue they care about deeply and emotionally, and vote for an "anti-amnesty" Representative. With another story on the Ticker showing a clear majority wanting all or most of illegal immigrants to leave, this is a hot-button issue the Democrats better be prepared for. (This is purely objective, by the way; yesterday, I voted for an independent.)

    October 17, 2007 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  7. Bob, San Francisco, CA

    I don't know much about the campaign. Did Ogonowski campaign on his brother's fateful day (like a Giuliani), or did he run on his own merit?

    For that matter, did Tsongas run on her own merit, or did she ride the tail of her (late) husband's reputation (like Hillary)?

    I remember in grade school hearing that "anyone can grow up to be president". It seems that practically everyone in politics (or Hollywood for that matter) has a connection through cronyism or nepotism.

    October 17, 2007 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  8. laurinda,ny

    PHEOBE..That is the most ridiculous post on this whole thing. What in the world would That lady want to go to the Round tree motel with the Clinton's for? Have you been drinking?

    October 17, 2007 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  9. Anonymous, Somewhere, MI

    If this demonstrates anything, it's widespread dissatisfaction with those perceived as "insiders." Business as usual has destroyed the public support for both Bush and the Democrat-led congress. The real bellweather here isn't necessarily a Republican sweep, but a real push for who will be the most "outsider" candidate. It suggests that Hillary Clinton is in trouble as she is the most business as usual candidate there is. The ones who could most be helped are those with the most "outsider" credentials and enthusiasm behind them. On the Democratic side that's more an Obama than it is an Edwards. For the Republicans, that's Ron Paul.

    October 17, 2007 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  10. Jeff from Jersey

    Another 9/11 republican?What a great new idea!I'm sorry for his brother but republicans had better find something else to run on.People are sick to death of republicans that constantly use that as the focal point of their campaigns ,intentionally or otherwise,they've got to do better than that.
    The only problem is that they don't HAVE anything else.

    October 17, 2007 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  11. Chris, Middletown, CT

    I wish we had a candidate who was moderate – someone who is socially liberal – yet fiscally conservative....someone who would take on the immigration issues...and pay attention to foreign policy...wait...we do....who is this guy Giuliani....the guy that people on every side will vote for....(I know this gets the lefts panties in a bunch....but....its true....you are running far left...and most Republicans are far right....the country can't work on the polar opposites anymore...Giuliani 08

    October 17, 2007 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  12. Harry B Gooded Boston MA

    The main thing we need to know before the election, is whether Hillary Clinton is related to Jeb Bush or not.

    October 17, 2007 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  13. Irradi New York NY

    How come we get no follow up on the Cheney Obama relation thing ? Was that a WMD report – or are they really related ??

    October 17, 2007 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  14. Gillara New York NY

    So what happens if we get a tie between Hillary and McCain. Which one would be Pres and Vice Pres ? Or would they split the duties ?

    October 17, 2007 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  15. Evan Esteves, Boca Raton, FL

    LOL Watch out democrats??? Watch out for what? You still lost!

    October 18, 2007 03:01 am at 3:01 am |
  16. josh

    I think the message is clear. Massachusetts, which has suffered under Democratic rule during the past 30 years or so, are tired of it. They are tired of the liberal society. They are tired of having some of the highest taxes in the nation. They are tired of seeing the population of their state shrink as people are moving out for more oppurtunity in more conservative states. They are tired of two-faced polliticians such as Ted Kennedy and the like forcing their agendas of decrease while living in increase. And most of all, the people of Taxachusetts are tired of being victims... And this vote (which has historically been 80% democrat) shows it. Sorry Dems, I guess you'll have to find a new set of victims.

    October 18, 2007 09:38 am at 9:38 am |