The media is being very careful in calling the senate races in Virginia and Montana, but as of now, the apparent winner in the Virginia Senate Race is Democrat Jim Webb, and the apparent winner in the Montana Senate Race is Democrat Jon Tester.
I was up until 2 am last night watching the results roll in, and it was a nail biter. At first things looked really bad in the senate for the Democrats - Claire McCaskill was down in Missouri, Webb was down by as much as 30,000 votes in Virginia, and only Tester had a commanding lead over Conrad Burns in Montana. But I stayed up late enough to see that Webb had eked out a tiny victory in Virginia over Allen, and that Tester was holding the lead over Burns. McGaskill really surprised me by trouncing Jim Talent in Missouri - I was sure that that one was over.
But what does this all mean? It means that we will have some new ideas in Washington. People talk about Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi as being the faces of the Democratic party - both of them in their mid60s and not exactly the most charismatic people. But they have shown - and even younger senators like my senator Chuck Schumer have shown, that they are more than willing to put junior senators out there if they think it will help them improve the image of the Democratic Party. And so guys like Barack Obama - a freshman senator from Illinois - is the guy they prefer to put forward compared to John Kerry, who is so 2004.
I think that the newer senators like Jon Tester and Jim Webb (and Bob Casey and Shel Whitehouse and ...) will have greater clout than is usually assigned to Democratic freshman senators because they will be seen as the face of the expanding party. Tester and Webb represent the strong desire among the Democratic base to have "no BS" candidates representing them.
Many people think that Howard Dean was elected chairman because he's so liberal, but it wasn't his politics, it was his attitude. Hopefully we'll see a little more attitude from the incoming Senate and House that will enable this country to have a real debate on an Iraq exit strategy. Republicans and Democrats alike should be glad that Conrad Burns and George Allen - who haven't really distinguished themselves nationally - are being replaced by energetic, individualist representatives.