NPR All Things Considered anchor Robert Siegel was helping liberal Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne knock conservatives (even Democrats running as conservatives) on Friday. Siegel volunteered that the newest House Democrat, Mark Critz, was elected by being "anti-health care."
Sigh. Dionne tried to make the special elections sound like a great week for liberals:
DIONNE: I didn't know tea gave you a hangover, but I think Rand Paul's victory in Kentucky has already given Republicans --
SIEGEL: He won the Senate nomination.
DIONNE: -- he won the Senate nomination. And already, his rather pure strains of libertarianism is causing Republicans trouble. He seems to be against the public accommodations section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that banned discrimination at lunch counters and hotels and the like. So, that's going to be an interesting race to watch.
The one partisan race on the ballot: The Democrats held the seat of John Murtha in the only district that switched from John Kerry in 2004 to John McCain. So, that's a seat Republicans should've won. Granted, it's a pretty Democratic seat. And Democrat Mark Critz won by 9 points. He ran to the right on a bunch of issues. His slogan was: Pro-life, Pro-Gun, Pro-Jobs. So, you couldn't mistake him for a liberal.
SIEGEL: And anti-health care.
Mr. DIONNE: And anti-health care -- but also a populist message on economics. And so the Republicans are still trying to explain what happened. They're blaming it on the Democratic primary, where Arlen Specter lost, and saying well, a lot of Democrats came out to vote.
Dionne is paired with pseudo-conservative David Brooks of The New York Times, and where Dionne was giddy, Brooks was grumpy over the extremes challenging his sainted center:
I think the overall message for me was the voters have decided there's just too much cooperation, bipartisanship in Washington, and they want to stamp it out.
Because they got rid of Arlen Specter, endangered Blanche Lincoln, and we just saw Robert Bennett lose in Utah. So anybody who might have thought they might want to work across the lines - for good reasons or bad - they're either out or may be going out. And so in each case, they've been replaced by - in the Senate - by somebody more extreme.
SIEGEL: Did you hear what E.J.'s talking about, that Republicans are worried about - say, the result in Pennsylvania?
BROOKS: Yeah, that should definitely be a warning, because they tried to think, oh, we can run against Nancy Pelosi everywhere. But the Democrats really localized that district and really ran a candidate that fit that district -- very conservative -- and they won it.
DIONNE: And I think the important thing is that a bunch of the folks the Democrats are going to be defending this fall are fairly conservative people in fairly conservative districts. And the fact that a nationalized message didn't work against them, that somebody could give themselves inoculation, I think calls into question this notion that it's already in the cards that Republicans are going to take over the House. I think we're way short of that at the moment.