Happy Friday

We owe y'all an apology for being so tuned out, but we're sort of busy right now. We'll be back next week. Until then, we'd like to share this important work zone safety message:

Columbia College interview

Hats off to Jesika Brooks, a Columbia College student, who is writing for a class via a series of blog postings, including "Election 2.0", which looked at how new media impacted the 2008 elections, as well as how it will continue to impact national politics.

It's great to see students who are willing to do their homework and show us new media types some respect. We're also flattered that the Blogland was able to participate in her work Go give her article a read!

What's going on at the Fairgrounds?

Anyone driving down Assembly Street near the USC stadium has probably noticed the ongoing work at the Fairgrounds. If not, then maybe you saw the story on the front page of The State:

The State Fairgrounds parking lot — one of the main tailgating areas for USC football games — is undergoing a $4.5 million beautification project that will include paved roads, drainage, curbing and 250 adult trees.

The work comes a year and a half before a 40-year contract expires between USC and the independent, nonprofit society that runs the fair.

Under the contract, the State Agricultural and Mechanical Society of South Carolina, established by the Legislature in 1869, receives $8,500 per game for 5,600 spaces.

Today, the university charges Gamecock Club members — fans who make donations to the university for better seats — $225 to $260 per season for a space.

That means, on the low end, USC could make about $1.2 million before any fees are paid in a season with seven home games.

What you're seeing is my company's latest project, which started a few weeks ago (yeah, I really work in the private sector, so I'm not pimping myself out to the education establishment or anyone else for a paycheck).

U.S. Group will be busy for the next few months doing a considerable amount of work on the Fairgrounds site, improving the parking areas and storm runoff drainage systems. Part of this includes a pretty neat high-tech system which will allow storm water runoff to be put into the soil underneath the parking lot, instead of running off into nearby neighborhoods or the Congaree River, both known for flooding problems.

We'll be done in the spring, well before Gamecocks football and the State Fair. People going to both will probably appreciate a drier walk to and from these events, and those who live and work in the surrounding area will appreciate the fact that we're using an innovative approach to solving this problem which won't involve flooding their neighborhoods and businesses.

Picking the next RNC chair

After weeks of speculation, SCGOP Chair Katon Dawson announced he's in the running for the RNC chairmanship.

The chair of the RNC will face the toughest challenge since Haley Barbour was named to this post in the wake of Clinton's ouster of President George Bush back in 1993. A year after his appointment, the GOP was riding a building wave of electoral fortune that would sweep the Democrats from Congress to county courthouses, wiping away decades of electoral decay. Barbour was a key player - a smart tactician with good political skills, sharp communication abilities, and a good coalition builder with a keen eye for the sensibilities of both the party's base and the swing voters who seated Clinton in 1992 and then unseated his party from Congressional power.

Regaining power will require the GOP to recapture the support of swing voters, which was key to the 1994 electoral sweep. In some regards, today's swing voters share similarities with swing voters of the mid-90s, fiscally conservative, politically independent, concerned about ethical government, and often live in the same states. In other regards, they are very different voters - many of them are educated and hold down white collar occupations. They are far more diverse ethnically and while they don't like excessive taxation, they're concerned about the size of the national debt and support reasonable taxation - with accountability for results. They often go to church with their family and believe faith is important in their lives, but they're not flaming social conservatives.

Our next RNC chair needs to understand how these voters tick, look for the common threads between them and the GOP, and look for how they can be weaved into the fabric of a revitalized GOP majority. Then they need to be able to make the tough decisions necessary to keep the GOP in the fight until electoral trends allow the GOP to mount a comeback.

While Haley Barbour was able to mount this bid, we've seen both here and abroad where other dethroned conservative parties failed to get the messages delivered by the voters, and spent years in the wilderness for doing so. The British Conservative Party failed to figure out how return to power and, four leaders later, may finally end a record-length Labor majority that has lasted nearly a decade and a half. Republicans can choose to make the same kinds of mistakes, or choose leaders and positions which help pave the way for a 1994-style comeback.

The 2010 elections will require the GOP to defend a number of governorships and avoid further Congressional losses. Several open gubernatoral seats currently held by Democrats in traditionally GOP states and a number of Democratic House members in their first or second terms in historically-GOP seats may be vulnerable to the midterm swing effect. The right leadership could help capitalize on these opportunities, but the wrong leadership could help the Democrats lock in their majority for a decade or more.

We're going to be watching the candidates and for what little it may be worth, sharing our opinion about which candidate is best suited to help the GOP make a strong comeback in 2010 and 2012.

Democrats not the first to challenge the Howard Rich agenda

Recently in The State, Ken Campbell of the South Carolina New Democrats tried to take the credit for being the first to take on the corrupting influences of Howard Rich and his front organizations. While he might like for voters to think his efforts were the first and that Republicans aren't willing to stand for ethical campaign practices, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Howard Rich's efforts were challenged long before the fall elections, and Republicans played key roles in those efforts. A group I was part of - Take Back South Carolina - included myself and recently-retired GOP State Representative Bill Cotty on its board. In the fall of 2006, several postings on this blog - hardly a Democratic forum - challenged a number of attacks made by SCRG, a front group associated with Howard Rich.

There are many Republicans who are concerned about the adverse effects of Rich's out-of-state cash and have been working to stop the buyout of our state. In doing so, we also joined with other South Carolinians of many political perspectives. In those early efforts, Mr. Campbell was nowhere to be found, but I'm glad he's decided to join the cause - so long as his motives are sincere.

Odds are that Campbell's efforts would not have received anywhere near as much attention had bi-partisan efforts in the spring not already warned voters and the news media about these well-funded out-of-state efforts. Many of the races in the June GOP primaries where Rich-associated groups targeted their resources, valued at tens of thousands of dollars in each of over two dozen General Assembly campaigns, began losing ground when and wherever information provided by critics of Howard Rich's efforts began showing up in stories and editorials presented by traditional news media outlets. This blog site and my Take Back SC efforts played key roles in getting the word out.

If Mr. Campbell wants to use Howard Rich's shadow groups to score political points on Republicans, that would be unfortunate. But if he wants to work to end the long history of well-funded special interests, like Rich or video poker in the 1990s, bullying state government and misleading voters en masse, then we in the Blogland welcome his help.

"I thought I just hit a mailbox"

That's what she thought she'd hit yesterday morning at about 7.05 a.m.

But what the driver of a Dodge Durango actually hit when she swerved through someone's yard along Axtell Drive in Summerville was my daughter Bonnie, who was walking to school.

After hitting her with her rear-view mirror hard enough to knock the glass out, the driver just kept on going.

Fortunately, someone was right behind that car and stopped to help my daughter and call 911. He also got a good look at the driver and her vehicle, finding her about an hour later at her home nearby. While talking with the trooper, the driver seemed rather indifferent, saying she figured she'd hit a mailbox, so she just kept going. She admitted to having just gotten in from an all-nighter, during which time her windshield was apparently smashed in (she didn't seem to know how it happened) - prompting law enforcement to send an alert to see what other hit-and-runs she may have been involved in.

After spending most of yesterday morning at her doctor's office and getting x-rays, the prognosis is a fractured clavicle - collarbone - with weeks with a sling and limited use of her writing hand, but we'll know more later today. It's also a good thing we have insurance, because it seems it seems the driver doesn't (her first claim about insurance turned out to be bogus). She was cited for several offenses, including leaving the scene of an accident, and driving too fast for conditions. We expect that driving without insurance will be added to the list.

All things considered, it could have been worse, but it's still infuriating that it happened at all.

Since she didn't really care what she hit or bother to see what happened, then we figure she won't care what charges are brought against her. To that end, the Blogland will be talking with the 1st Circuit Solicitor's office real soon, and we're looking forward to seeing what they can do to hold her accountable.

Stay tuned.

Good guys & bad guys

Dirty Harry, toting his .44 magnum looking for crooks to blow away ... uhhh, we meant to say Secretary of State Mark Hammond ... named names in this year's Scrooges and Angels listing, just in time to guide holiday giving. Even better was having his helpful staff share the list with us for our review.

Hammond's office identified a number of charitable organizations as "Angels", or those who:

... were selected by review of financial reports submitted annually to the Secretary of State’s Office. The following criteria were considered: the charity must have been established for at least three years; has collected revenue greater than $20,000; 80 percent or more of the revenue must go toward the charities’ program goals; makes good use of volunteer labor; and receives minimal finding in grants. The panel also sought to showcase charities with different missions, and chose charities across South Carolina and the United States.

By this definition, the following organizations made his list of Angels for 2008:

  • Animal Protection League of SC, Inc., Hopkins, SC 93.5%
  • Careteam, Inc., Myrtle Beach, SC 95.8%
  • Carson Scholars Fund, Inc., Baltimore, MD 88.1%
  • Country Santa, Pickens, SC 99.3%
  • Experience Works, Inc., Arlington, VA 92.5%
  • Fatherhood & Families Engagement, Florence, SC 93.3%
  • Golden Harvest Food Bank, Inc., Augusta, GA 95.0%
  • Historic Charleston Foundation, Charleston, SC 85.6%
  • NAMI of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 87.2%
  • Outreach Farm, Inc., Pawleys Island, SC 98.8%

Hammond's office also named their "Scrooges", based upon the follow criteria:

The Scrooges were selected by review of financial reports submitted annually to the Secretary of State’s Office. The following criteria were considered: the charity had given 40 percent or less of the revenue to the charities’ program goals; collected revenue greater than $20,000; had many complaints filed against them; and spent a large amount of money on the use of professional fundraisers rather than volunteers.

The starring scrooges for 2008 were ...

  • American Police & Sheriff’s Association, Chepachet, RI 12.7%
  • Cancer Assistance Network, Gig Harbor, WA 24.0%
  • Children’s Cancer Fund of America, Inc., Powell, TN 14.4%
  • Committee for Missing Children, Inc., Lawrenceville, GA 10.2%
  • Dakota Indian Foundation, Inc., Chamberlain, SD 17.8%
  • Disabled Police Officers of American, Inc., Niceville, FL 11.4%
  • Dogs Against Drugs/Dogs Against Crime, Anderson, IN 10.3%
  • Firefighters Charitable Foundation, Farmingdale. NY 11.1%
  • Foundation for American Veterans, Inc., West Bloomfield, MI 7.6%
  • National Vietnam Veterans Foundation, Inc., Alexandria, VA 11.3%

It's interesting to note that seven of the ten Angels were based in South Carolina, with one right across the Savannah River in Augusta. By contrast, all ten of the Scrooges were based outside of South Carolina. We also noted that a number of the Angels, such as the Animal Protection League of SC and Historic Charleston Foundation, had local missions, while the Scrooges were based out of state and spent their money out of state. We figure that South Carolinians are more likely to be conscientious and responsible with funds they solicit than an organization from elsewhere.

We certainly appreciate the work being done by Mark Hammond's office in helping inform us about both the good and the bad charities at work in South Carolina.

The Leaders of the Pack

This afternoon, the members of the Freshmen Caucus of the State House's 2009-2010 class elected a decidedly conservative and mostly Upstate leadership, with all four officers seen as staunch conservatives and three hailing from the Greenvile County:
  • Chair: Tim Scott from North Charleston
  • Vice-Chair: Dan Hamilton from Taylors
  • Secretary: Wendy Nanney from Greenville
  • Treasurer: Tommy Stringer from Landrum

"It's a huge honor to facilitate this Freshman Caucus a conduit for the best ideas of others and get them to the leadership of the House," Tim Scott told us this in an interview this evening. He sees his role as their Chairman as a facilitator who would help move good ideas forward and make sure his fellow freshmen would play important roles in the next two years. Given the large number of freshmen, including several who toppled incumbents, he will have his work cut out for him.

Given Scott's highly-visible candidacy and his long record as a leader on Charleston County Council, as well as a number of other Lowcountry organizations, we're confident that of any freshman who has the ability to lead the freshman caucus, he was the right choice. We want to thank those who supported him for making a wise choice.

Anton Gunn, a freshman Democrat who won the seat vacated by Blogland favorite Rep. Bill Cotty, made bids for three of the four freshman offices, including Chair and Vice-Chair, losing each time. That's a whole lot of ambition for a first-week member, and we have to wonder if it's not too much.

These freshmen will face tough challenges: a slumping economy, the likelihood of one or more tight budget years, and a highly-combative relationship between the Governor and the General Assembly. They will be expected to make some tough decisions that may entail more political risk for them than with others with more seniority who have stronger political bonds in their districts. But we're confident
many of them will put their duty as legislators above politics-as-usual.

To the officers of the Freshmen Caucus, we say "congratulations", and wish to extend to Scott and the other freshman our best wishes and prayers for successful two years in the House.

Bad boy Jim Brown

We see Shannon Erickson's former Democratic opponent got himself locked up again, just a couple of weeks after election day. Last time, he swore it was all a set-up. We'll be interested to see what his excuse for this one is - and if he plans to run again anytime soon:

Former Democratic S.C. House of Representative candidate Jim Brown was arrested Friday for trying to prevent a car -- not his own -- from being booted in downtown Beaufort.

Officers from the Beaufort Police Department served Jim Brown, 37, of Lady's Island with a warrant Friday afternoon for interfering with a police officer following an incident Thursday in downtown Beaufort, said Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy.

Clancy said Brown tried to prevent an officer from putting a boot on a car.

"The officer was dealing with a parking violation, and a car was being booted, and (Brown) became involved and interfered with the officer's actions," Clancy said. "It wasn't his car. He wasn't immediately involved but he came along and involved himself."

Brown, whose website described him as:

Feared by his opponents for his take-no-prisoners approach to pursuing justice for his clients, Beaufort attorney Jim Brown is held in extremely high regard by his colleagues in the S.C. Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers because of his outstanding research, writing, lecturing, and leadership skills.

We find it sort of ironic when a criminal defense attorney can't keep himself out of jail. Come to think of it, Brown's act sort of reminds us of those famous words uttered by another Democratic politico ... "Bitch set me up".

Monday's music

We've had a pretty busy last few days, and to be honest, we're off doing stuff non-political (which is a healthy thing - we recommend it highly).

Until tomorrow, we'll leave you with a promise that we'll be back with more substantive content tomorrow and this YouTube video of Sum 41's parody of the 80s metal scene with this video of their performance of "Pain for Pleasure":

We have it on good authority two of these guys were reprising roles played by Mike Reino and Brian McCarty.

Working for the weekend

We want to thank our readers for tuning in this week. Tomorrow, we'll be teaching a Red Cross First Aid & CPR class down in Bluffton, as well as catching the new James Bond flick. But don't worry, we'll be back on Monday.

Until then, here's a little Loverboy for ya:

Rob Halford's Metal "Resurrection"

After a long streak of thoughtful and profound postings, it's time for something a little less political. Since yours truly will be busy doing safety compliance site visits and teaching First Aid and CPR to employees today and tomorrow, it seems like a good time to start getting back to the heavy metal album reviews that inspired some of our readers to throw up clenched fists and call out "Blogland" when we've seen them over the last couple of years ...

At the end of a long musical journey that lasted throughout the 1990s, where he left Judas Priest in a rambling solo journey which turned in a number of music directions, in 2000, Rob Halford returned to his metal roots with his kick-ass solo 2000 album, very fittingly entitled “Resurrection”.

While I couldn't find any YouTube stuff that links to anything from this album, here's a link to a video of him performing the Judas Priest classic "Delivering the Goods" with Skid Row:

A bit ironic that since this, Halford's band wanted him back and Skid Row has moved on without Sebastian Bach, ain't it?

Winning and losing in the Blogland

Now that the dust has settled, let's look at how some of the races we've look at fared.

Blogland Races to Watch: We predicted a number of legislative races were going to be close, with the winner coming in under the sixty percent mark.

Senate District 10: Democrat Nicholson holds an open Dem seat with 51 percent.
Senate District 11: Democrat Senator Glenn Reese wins re-election with 57 percent.
Senate District 16: Republican Mick Mulvaney holds an open GOP seat with 54 percent.
Senate District 25: Republican Shane Massey wins re-election with 54 percent.
Senate District 28: Democrat Dick Elliot wins re-election with 57 percent.

House District 29: Democrat Dennis Moss wins re-election with 53 percent.
House District 45: Republican Deborah Long holds an open GOP seat with 57 percent.
House District 49: Democrat John King holds an open Dem seat with 68 percent.
House District 60: Republican Phil Lowe wins re-election with 57 percent.
House District 79: Democrat Anton Gunn wins this open GOP seat with 54 percent.
House District 97: Democrat Patsy Knight wins re-election with 54 percent.
House District 108: Democrat Vida Miller wins re-election with 53 percent.
House District 115: Democrat Anne Patterson Hutto ousts GOP Rep. Wallace Scarborough with 51 percent.
House District 124: Republican Shannon Erickson wins re-election with 58 percent.

... of the 14 races we called as being close, all but one was. But there were a few that we missed:

GOP Senator Kevin Bryant (Dist. 3), who held on with 57 percent,
GOP Rep. Don Bowen (Dist. 8), who got 53 percent,
GOP House candidate Mark Willis (Dist. 16), who got 53 percent,
Dem. Rep. Olin Phillips (Dist. 30), who got 54 percent,
GOP Rep. Derham Cole (Dist. 32), who got 54 percent,
GOP House candidate Steve Parker (District 37), who got 57 percent,

We want to thank our readers, whose helpful intel helped us assess what was going on out there and make our calls. Hopefully next time around, we can get a little more input from people who live along the I-85 corridor, where we missed a handful of close races.

Blogland Endorsees: Six out of our nine endorsees won their races:

Nikki Haley, House District 87 - Wins with 83 percent
Sabrina Gast, York County Coroner - Wins with 64 percent
Shannon Erickson, House District 124 - Wins with 58 percent
Phil Lowe, House District 60 - Wins with 57 percent
Dean Fowler, Florence County Treasurer - Wins with 57 percent
Shane Massey, Senate District 25 - Wins with 54 percent
Dee Compton, Senate District 10 - Loses with 48 percent
Jill Kelso, House District 108 - Loses with 47 percent
Marvin Rogers, House District 49 - Loses with 32 percent

"GOP in dire straits" ... ?

To that question, we say yes, responding to concerns raised in an article posted on Politico.com, where Jonhathan Martin takes a good look at the GOP's present woes, as well as offers some guidance as to fix them:

Thumped convincingly in consecutive election cycles, the Republican Party now finds itself in its worst straits since the rise of the conservative coalition — a minority party without the White House, fewer seats in the House and Senate, only 21 governors and full control of just 14 state legislatures.

Most ominous for Republicans, the GOP is increasingly becoming less grand than old — and outdated. As reflected in Tuesday’s results and exit polls, it’s a party that is overwhelmingly white, rural and aged in a country that is rapidly becoming racially mixed, suburban and dominated by a post-Baby Boomer generation with no memory of Vietnam or the familiar culture wars of the past.

The article offers some good advice on where to go to fix the problems, including this advise from former Governor Jeb Bush:

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said the party should take four primary steps: show no tolerance for corruption, practice what it preaches about limiting the scope of government (“There should not be such a thing as a Big-Government Republican”), stand for working families and small business, and embrace reform.

“I hope there is a strong focus on recruiting candidates for governor as a top priority for 2010,” said Bush. “A reform conservative agenda can be shown at the state level regarding education, health care and environmental policy while the liberals advocate the status quo, just more of it, in Washington, D.C.”

It's worth a look, so go check it out.

GOP eyes on the 5th?

Rumors hint that 5th District Congressman John Spratt may get an appointment early in the Obama administration. Given his seniority in the House and his long-time service in the House Budget Committee, it's a no-brainer to see him get a lot of consideration for a slot such as OMB director. Since he's held the seat for since the early 1980s, and it would likely be a long time before he could climb higher than the chairmanship of Budget, it's easy to see him wanting to make a change.

Since 1994, the GOP has made several strong challenges to Spratt, most notably Larry Bigham, who got 48% in 1994 and 46% in 1996, and Ralph Norman, who got 44% in '06 in spite of running in a bad year for the GOP with a poorly-run campaign. Should Spratt vacate the seat, you can bet the GOP will do their best to take it. Towards that end, several GOP names come to mind as strong potential contenders:

  • Ronnie Cromer, State Senator from Prosperity - he easily replaced Lt. Governor Andre Bauer in '03 and has won two strong re-elections in his Newberry County-based district. This swing area will be a must-win area if running for the 5th.
  • Wes Hayes, State Senator from Rock Hill - he's well liked and respected by people on both sides of the political fence and securely anchored in York County, home to nearly half the district's residents.
  • Glenn McCall, RNC Committeeman - a rising star in Palmetto State politics, this Bank of America VP is also the popular chair of the York County GOP. His national connections would allow him to draw resources that would quickly bolster his candidacy.
  • Tommy Pope, former 16th Circuit Solicitor - a record as a no-nonsense prosecutor and charismatic oratorical style would play well with the district's rural white Democrats. Rumor has it that he's eyeing opportunities to re-enter politics. While he'd be a strong AG candidate in '10, this race might be too good to pass up.

While David Beasley and Ralph Norman are certainly potential candidates, we'd be suprised if they show up in a 5th District special election, or if they'd fare well should they enter the race. Norman bungled his campaign by making an ill-advised key stand on the immigration issue, a vulnerability which his opposition easily feasted upon. Beasley lost the 5th district in his 1998 Gubernatoral re-election bid, and again in his attempted '04 Senate comeback bid - after two high-profile defeats, we don't see a comeback in the cards.

While the GOP has a deeper bench of candidate prospects than the Democrats and numbers suggest the seat is winnable, especially without an entrenched Democratic incumbent, a strong financial disadvantage by the NRCC will be a handicap. This was a key factor in at least half a dozen of the House races carried by Democrats, possibly more, and it'll likely continue to be a hurdle to overcome in the near future. Whoever carries the GOP banner would likely face a crowded primary field, and then face a Democratic candidate with little or no national-level assistance.

In any event, it's race worth watching if it comes to pass. If Spratt doesn't leave for a Washington career change and Democratic polling numbers drop going into the '10 mid-term, any of these candidates would be strong contenders for the seat then.

Legislative Republicans at a crossroads?

This sign contains two messages: the first warns of a a turn to the left, and the second of an upcoming crossroads. It seems an appropriate to what is going on in the State House.

Our state finds itself confronted with a budget crisis, which is nothing new. Our state's budget has a history of going from boom to bust, yet while many of our legislators were around during the last budget crash, we saw billions of dollars of recent surpluses squandered with little effort to set aside reserves.

Last fall saw our state's House Speaker upset when a legislator proposed requiring putting votes on the record, which is commonplace in many other states. The excuse of "if we want you to know, we'll let you know, otherwise get lost" smacks of the same kind of good ol' boy leadership that was reminiscent of the old days of South Carolina's Democratic majority rule, where cover-ups, corruption, investigations, and convictions - culminating in Operation Lost Trust - were commonplace.

Now we see the House leadership proposing a rule change that would consolidate power into the hands of the House Speaker, by allowing the Speaker to appoint committee chairs, instead of allowing the committee members to select their own. We've heard excuses that this is intended to protect the power of the GOP majority in the House, but we're skeptical.

We're concerned these changes will make the legislature less accountable to the public and empower those who wish to operate in the shadows, even if that's not what those backing the rules desire. These same kinds of tricks had much to do with the upsetting of the scandal-ridden Republican majority in the U.S. House. Once the now-former Speaker Dennis Hastert and others in the Congressional GOP leadership began changing rules, cutting deals for campaign cash, and spending money like drunken sailors, under the excuse of protecting the Republican majority, it was only a matter of time before it hit the fan.

We find ourselves confronted with eerie parallels with what cost Republicans in control of Congress. This puts us at a crossroads and makes us ask ourselves where we're headed, and how long it will be before voters decide they're ready for a change.

We hope grass-roots Republicans will be asking their leadership the same questions, as well as holding them accountable for what they're doing.

(Pocket) Change we can believe in

Obama's selection of Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff is hardly a good first step, but hey, it's not like we were one of the ones who got suckered by all that whole "Change" BS the man was throwing about.

President-elect Barack Obama's newly appointed chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, served on the board of directors of the federal mortgage firm Freddie Mac at a time when scandal was brewing at the troubled agency and the board failed to spot "red flags," according to government reports reviewed by ABCNews.com. Collapse

According to a complaint later filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Freddie Mac, known formally as the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, misreported profits by billions of dollars in order to deceive investors between the years 2000 and 2002.

... Read more of the ABC News.com story

If this is how the first week starts out, then hold on folks.

2008 electoral gains limited for Democrats at the state level

While we're having a great time at the annual Workforce Board planning retreat, we decided to take a break to crunch some numbers and share some electoral data with our readers, this time looking at the nationwide outcomes in the state races.

While Democrats fared well at the national level, most notably in their bid for Electoral College votes for Barack Obama (you don't hear Democrats complaining about it this time around ... ) and Senate seats, the state level picture wasn't as impressive.

While the GOP had finally reached relative parity to Democrats in the number of legislative chambers held (about half of the total of 98 partisan chambers), they lost control of a number of legislative majorities in the midst of the 2006 Democratic electoral wave. While one might have expected state races to again mirror the federal races, it seems as if the GOP was able to dodge this bullet, only losing one Governor's office and a very minor number of legislative seats to the Democrats nationwide.

According to state election data from the NCSL - the National Conference of State Legislatures, the GOP's legislative seat losses in 2008 were much less than those seen two years ago:

Nationwide partisan Senate seats, by election year:

2008: 1026 (53.5% ) DEM / 891 (46.5%) GOP - Change in share of seats: 0.8%
2006: 1011 (52.7%) DEM / 906 (47.3%) GOP - Change in share of seats: 3.0%
2004 : 953 (49.7%) DEM / 964 (50.3%) GOP

Nationwide partisan House seats, by election year:

2008: 3064 (56.8%) DEM / 2330 (43.2%) GOP - Change in share of seats: 1.6%
2006: 2975 (55.2%) DEM / 2410 (44.8%) GOP - Change in share of seats: 5.1%
2004: 2708 (50.2%) DEM / 2687 (49.8%) GOP

The slight difference in the totals is because non-partisan and third party legislators were not included.

It's interesting to note that there was very little in the way of losses in what was supposed to be a bad year for the GOP, especially since many of these legislators will be casting votes for reapportionment plans

Phil Bailey, the state's best Democratic campaign operative, felt this outcome reflected a trend among independent voters to split their tickets:

The Republicans had a hell of a 72-hour operation in South Carolina. Nationwide, I think the middle-of-the-road voters wanted to balance their votes by voting for change in national races, but then voting for some incumbents, which favored the status quo at the local level.

Jim Merrill, the outgoing State House Majority Leader, felt voters assessed state races differently than national races:

Voters more closely scrutinize local races. They were mad at the national-level Republicans, but on the local level, many voters still saw the Republicans they knew in state offices weren't part of the problem.

For a little broader perspective, we talked with Mark Lisella, a Lowcountry native Republican strategist who consults state legislative and congressional races nationwide. He believed a news media bias existed towards upper-ballot Democratic candidates, thus helping convince voters who normally voted for the GOP to split their tickets:

The depravity of the mainstream media rarely shocks me, but their behavior this election cycle was astounding. They abandoned any pretense of impartiality or journalistic integrity to ensure a Democratic victory in competitive races.

This bias is clearly reflected in the election results of the higher profile campaigns. Generally speaking, the campaigns with more media exposure benefitted the Democratic candidate.

Missouri is typically considered a bellwether state. This cycle, no Republican seats in the Missouri State Senate were lost, and three were picked up -- enough seats to override the new Democratic governor. This was the largest increase in the country for a Republican-controlled chamber. The Democratic candidates at the top of the ballot received a disproportionate amount of media coverage, which was more favorable than unfavorable, and that's reflected in the election results.

Ok, now that the experts have spoken ... what do YOU, our readers think ... ?

The long road back

In spite of an 11th hour rally by GOP voters, Tuesday night was another stunning defeat for the GOP.

While a McCain victory would been a symbolic victory, it is hard to see what it would have accomplished. Both the Bushes who sat in the White House contended with Congresses run by the opposition party, and spent those years unable to push through agendas or get the American people to hold Congress accountable for their role in the nation's problems. It is hard to see how McCain's experience would have been much different had he won.

For McCain to win on Tuesday, he had to run against both the perception of the GOP as a party of corruption as much as he was running against the Democrats. It was a task which was far more than he - or anyone else - could have accomplished. Over the last two years, many Republicans have lost for the same reason, and until things change - and convincingly so - more will likely lose in the future.

There is now a certain simplicity as Republicans will no longer have to play political defense or try to convince voters to split the blame amongst a divided government. If the economy is slow, foreign conflicts drag out, deficits persist or tough cuts have to be made to stem the growth of the national debt, voters can only blame the Democrats. But if Republicans wish to settle to play the kind of "blame and wait" game which the Democrats played for the last eight years, it might be a long time before they'll return to majority status.

The last two times the GOP suffered staggering setbacks, in 1976 and 1992, Republicans recovered fairly quickly when they presented pro-active agendas - Reagan's campaign messages in 1980 and Gingrich's Contract with America in 1994 - which focused on a few very simple themes, including fiscal restraint, ethical reform and sound foreign policies. In light of this, Grover Norquist's advice to "politely step away from the Bush presidency and say we're going back to basics" seems wise counsel.

In our humble opinion, the downward slide began the day former House Speaker Dennis Hastert repealed term limits for House committee chairs - the first of many ethical and fiscal sell-outs by Hastert and company, who were soon running interference for a handful of outright crooks and helping themselves to pork earmarks and bridges to nowhere. Even many Republicans disagreed with this direction, like an absentee corporate board of directors, they allowed the company to be taken over by scoundrels, and over the last two years, have paid the price. To change course, they will first need to clean house from within, and then challenge the Democrats and offer voters positive visions of what can be.

There lies a long road ahead before Republicans can return to majority status, but perhaps now the path is finally clear for that process to begin. We agree with Dick Morris' take on the present situation:

The Republican Party's role is to rebuild in the shadow of the frustrations of the Obama presidency. Just as MoveOn.org built the massive grass-roots base that yesterday impelled the Democrats to victory, so Republicans must go down to their grass roots, get in touch with their base and rebuild an opportunity to win national elections.

Power has been bad for the GOP, sapping the party's soul and eroding its purity. But opposition, especially when a socialist like Obama wrestles with the practical problems of capitalism, will be a heady experience for the Republicans. The conservative movement can be reborn in opposition in a way they never could have been as the governing party.

Towards this end, we've been outspoken about the problems we've seen, as well as ideas that can offer positive solutions to problems. We intend to continue doing so, because we believe the future of our state and our country is too important for us to sit on the sidelines.

We hope you'll join us.

What now?

Today, we're sure a lot of you are going to vote, and we hope you do. Especially if you're a Republican.

But no matter who wins or who loses, the world is gonna be here tomorrow, so where does the Blogland go from here? Well, our official position is that we're gonna get a life. To that end, there's a lot planned for the Blogland's "Straight on to Gettin' a life Express" ...

  • Tomorrow night, it's off to Myrtle Beach for a Workforce board planning retreat for the rest of the week.
  • Volunteering to teach Red Cross First Aid and CPR classes two Saturdays in Bluffton between now and the end of the year.
  • Lots of work on the Interstate 26 project.
  • Catch the new James Bond movie.
  • Spend more time at church.
  • Figure out how to use up the last stray vacation days left before the year is up.
  • Get ready for the evening adjunct professor gig, which starts in January.
  • Increase the weekly cycling time from four to seven hours a week.

... those are some of the personal things on our plate for the rest of the year. But don't worry, we're gonna include some agenda items that the Blogland's politically-obsessed readers should find of interest:

  • Begin talking about important issues for next year's session of the General Assembly, including getting roll call voting reform passed, calling for real budget reforms, as well as renewed attention to the issue of predatory lending ... with more issues to come as they develop.
  • Welcome the new faces, returning friends, and follow the upcoming legislative leadership races.
  • Watch the upcoming judicial elections, feature some candidate interviews, and as before, bring you news you won't find on other blogs and MSM outlets along with our endorsements for deserving candidates.
  • Bring you more of the Inside Interviews that helps our readers take a closer look into the many facets of government and politics in the Palmetto State.

Whatever happens tonight, there's nothing to worry about here, except how to juggle all these balls that life is throwing this way. One of the nice things about being a politico with a full-time job in the private sector is that the bills get paid no matter who wins.

At the risk of starting another Splatter the Shatner round with Mike Reino, we'd like to share this sage advice from Captain James Tiberius Priceline: