WASHINGTON – The election this week transformed not only Congress but the playing field for the 2008 presidential race.
Two things didn’t change: the contenders leading the polls on both sides.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., won a resounding re-election victory after raising nearly $40 million.
It was the most cash raised by any U.S. Senate candidate this year.
Clinton isn’t talking about her future, which is widely presumed to include a presidential bid but could involve a leadership role in the Democratic Senate.
Some analysts praise her campaign skills but say they wouldn’t be surprised if she chooses the latter, given the difficulties of a White House run.
“She comes with baggage that no other candidate has and the ability to mobilize Republicans against her that none of the other Democrats can match,” says Peverill Squire, a political scientist at the University of Iowa.
The Republican front-runner for the presidential nomination, U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, campaigned and raised money for candidates nationwide while building a network for his White House bid.
McCain supports President Bush on Iraq, but his disagreements with Bush about immigration policy, prisoner abuse and just-resigned Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s performance kept McCain’s maverick image alive.
While former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani also does well in polls and barnstormed the country, “right now it’s hard to see another Republican who has similar stature” to McCain, Squire says.
At the opposite end of the GOP stature spectrum was Virginia Sen. George Allen, whom The Associated Press declared the loser Wednesday in his race with Democrat Jim Webb, based on a canvass of election officials.
Two red-state Democrats, former North Carolina senator John Edwards and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, solidified their standing in ways that may pay off later.