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The off-year elections are over and the American people can now fully concentrate on their Christmas shopping. There will be little political vehemence until Congress assembles again in January. The only political sounds to be heard will be Republican wound-licking and the creak of "agonizing reappraisal" in preparation for the 1958 elections.
The Democrats won clear across the board last week. With the exception of fully expected Republican victory in two House races in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the Democrats triumphed in each of the three major contests by significant majorities.
In the New York City mayoralty race, Robert Wagner won by the largest margin ever recorded by a candidate for mayor in city history. In New Jersey, Governor Meyner beat Malcolm Forbes by over 200,000 votes and similarly received more votes than any Democrat in New Jersey history. The Democrats, for the first time in twenty years, also captured the State Assembly, where they gained more seats than they have since 1912. The Democrats triumphed in spite of the fact that Eisenhower carried the state by 750,000 votes in last year's election and despite Forbes' importation of big-name Republican talent.
In Virginia, although the Republicans had high hopes until Little Rock, GOP gubernatorial candidate Theodore Roosevelt Dalton received almost a tenth less votes than he did in 1953. The Virginia election serves as an indication of the degree to which the South has rejected its seemingly growing Republican sentiments because of Little Rock. There are only five Republican Southerners in the House, and while the GOP may lose some of these seats, it stands little chance of making any gains in the South in 1958.
Republicans and Rights
The main Republican hope in next year's elections is to win Congressional seats in Northern cities by emphasizing the party's stand on the Civil Rights Bill and on Little Rock. The results of last week's vote would seem to indicate the limited effectiveness of this appeal; both Meyner and Wagner strongly carry Negro districts. Northern Democrats have long been associated with the cause of civil rights, and even if on this issue the GOP seems stronger, to assume that the Negro votes solely on the civil rights issue is to insult his civic intelligence and disregard his economic needs.
In the Midwest and Far West the farm problem and the unpopularity of Secretary of Agriculture Benson continue to plague the Republicans. Even if Benson retires in February, a likely possibility, it is inconceivable that the new Secretary of Agriculture could solve the farm problem before election time or could extinguish farmer discontent. In addition, since 1952, the GOP has polled fewer and fewer votes in the Far Western states, excepting Utah. The currently deepening economic recession in the Pacific Northwest also lessens Republican strength in that area.
The Republicans' difficulties are complicated by national as well as regional weakness. Candidate Forbes said, with some justification, that he lost the election because of "sputnik, mutnik, and the sagging economy." Eisenhower advised GOP workers in 1956 to: "Never underestimate the value of a grin." But even the Eisenhower grin cannot eclipse the Russian moons or bolster the national economy.
Democratic Senate Lead
The GOP's 1958 worries are compounded by their unfortunate position in the Senate races. Of the thirty-two Senatorial contests, twenty-one seats are now held by Republicans and only eleven by Democrats. Four of these Republican incumbents are retiring, while all of the Democrats plan to run for reelection. Five of these are from the South and the other six--Kennedy, Symington, Mansfield, Chavez, Pastore, and Jackson--seem reasonably sure of reelection. Democrats will probably unseat a few Republican incumbents;--in Arizona, for instance, Governor Ernest MacFarland will likely rid the senate of Barry Gold-water.
In the House, of the two hundred Districts now represented by Republicans, thirty-nine were "marginal" in 1956--that is, were won by under fifty-five percent of the two-party vote. In the gubernatorial races, the Democrats are not quite so fortunate as they are in the Senate; of the thirty-three contests, twenty will be in states now governed by Democrats. At present, there are twenty-nine Democratic and nineteen Republican governors.
Although the Republicans have played their cards so they can possibly win the 1960 Presidential election, at this time there is little chance that they will make a good showing in 1958. Unless the foreign and economic position of the country improves markedly, the Democrats at least stand to hold their own in the gubernatorial elections and gain as many as twenty-five seats in the House and five in the Senate.
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