KWAME HOLMAN: 76-year-old John Dingell has been a Congressman since 1955.
REP. JOHN DINGELL: I've been there. I've done that.
KWAME HOLMAN: He has served longer than any other member of the House but not long enough, according to voters in Michigan's heavily Democratic 15th Congressional district. Yesterday, they almost assured Dingell a 24th term in Congress by handing him a resounding victory in Michigan's Democratic primary. Dingell has a powerful voice in Congress. He's the senior Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and, representing much of Detroit and it suburbs, is a friend of labor and the automobile industry.
Dingell's opponent was a fellow Democrat, 45-year-old Lynn Rivers, a four-term Congresswoman from Ann Arbor. That Dingell and Rivers, both incumbent Democrats, had to run against each other is a consequence of redistricting. Every ten years, states are obliged to add, subtract, or at least redraw the boundaries of their Congressional districts because of population shifts determined by the census.
As a result of the 2000 Census, Florida, Georgia, Texas, and Arizona each picked up two Congressional seats. North Carolina, Colorado, Nevada and California each picked up one. Ten states lost population and therefore seats. Connecticut, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Mississippi, and Oklahoma each lost one seat. New York and Pennsylvania each lost two.
Lynn River's district was eliminated in the new Congressional map drawn by Michigan's Republican-controlled legislature. Rather than retire, Rivers chose to challenge John Dingell in his newly redrawn district, which contained many of Lynn Rivers' old constituents. But when voters chose, the man known as the "dean of the House" survived.
Among the other notable outcomes in the run-up to election day, yesterday's convincing victory by Michigan attorney general Jennifer Granholm in the state's Democratic primary race for governor. She won a bruising battle, defeating former Governor James Blanchard and Congressman David Bonior, the second highest ranking Democrat in the House.
JENNIFER GRANHOLM: You know, we've all been good friends. Some had to go in different directions. Like a family, we are going to be back together again.
REP. DAVID BONIOR: Well, I think we'll be able to move on. We're grown up and we know what's at stake here, and what's at stake here is the state of Michigan.
KWAME HOLMAN: Granholm hopes to become Michigan's first female governor. She faces Michigan's lieutenant governor, Republican Dick Posthumous, in November. And in Tennessee, Lamar Alexander is the Republican choice to succeed retiring Fred Thompson in the Senate. Alexander is the former governor and a two-time Presidential candidate. He won his party's primary last week and will face Bob Clement, the seven-term Congressman from Nashville who is the Democratic nominee. Control of both Houses of Congress is in play this election year. Republicans have a 13-seat advantage over Democrats in the House of Representatives. Democrats hold a one-seat margin over Republicans in the Senate.
JIM LEHRER: And to Margaret Warner.
MARGARET WARNER: For a closer look at this primary season and the election year landscape, we turn to two Congress watchers: Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute; and Thomas Mann, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Welcome to you both.
All right, Norm, picking up on Kwame's piece that we just saw, if you look at the country overall, how has redistricting affected this year's elections?
NORMAN ORNSTEIN: We have really two almost contradictory trends here. The first is something that's been going on through the last several cycles of redistricting, which of course occurs every ten years. And that is a tendency in most states to make all incumbents safer. We're probably at a point now where the number of truly competitive, almost toss-up seats, has dwindled to barely more than 5 percent of the House and more and more incumbents are put in safer and safer places but at the same time in a number of states some that have gained seats, some that have lost seats, they have moved to throw incumbents against one another.
That's of course what happened in Michigan where the Republicans threw two Democrats together. We'll see an instance in Georgia, a primary coming up in just a couple of weeks where the Democrats put two Republicans together, but then we also have a number of states where, as they've lost seats and they haven't been able to deal with it otherwise, they've thrown incumbents of one party against incumbents of the other. There are at least nine in this instance, this election cycle, where we're going to have incumbents who have been forced to run against one another and of course somebody is going to lose.
MARGARET WARNER: Is that unusually high for one of these years?
NORMAN ORNSTEIN: It's around the same as 1992 but it's higher than what we had seen previously. Usually the parties work out a kind of gentleman's agreement where you try and protect everybody and you aim for the seats so if you have to lose one where somebody is certain to retire but this time it didn't quite work that way.
MARGARET WARNER: All right, Tom, now let's look at, we've had the primaries yesterday and we've had quite a few through the spring. Can you see any real trend or any identifiable fault lines in either of the parties where you can say, well, it's the old guard versus the new guard or this wing of the party versus that?
THOMAS MANN: Well, certainly the Dingell-Rivers race showed us the classic fault line within the Democratic Party. John Dingell is blue collar, socially conservative, bread and butter government programs. Lynn Rivers is more upscale, suburban, socially liberal, environment, abortion rights, gun control. That is a division that exists within the Democratic Party and for Democrats to succeed nationally, they have to pull that coalition together. On the Republican side, it's more of a matter of the movement conservatives, the Bob Barrs who are....
MARGARET WARNER: This is in Georgia.
THOMAS MANN: ...Advancing a cause. This is in Georgia versus just the regular conservative business-oriented "let's get the job done" Republicans. His opponent, John Lindher, represents that wing of the party. What we're looking at fascinating races in Kansas, for example, we saw that the more moderate Republican won the primary to challenge the Democratic incumbent for the House but in the governor's race, it was very different. It was the most conservative Republican candidate who won the contest, and he's going to have to go up against a very attractive, moderate Democratic woman who is now favored to win that seat.
MARGARET WARNER: What would you add to that in terms of the fault lines you're see inning these primaries?
NORMAN ORNSTEIN: Well, of course what we would normally have expected if you look at the dynamics in Washington on the Republican Party the focus has been around the small group of moderate Republicans coming under enormous pressure from the conservatives to tow the party line. And we have had in the past a series of primaries where the moderate Republicans have been challenged from the right. One Marge Roukema of New Jersey who faced an enormous challenge the last time decided to retire instead.
But the real focus is as Tom has said. It's not so much on the moderates versus the conservatives. It's the mainstream business- oriented conservatives, establishment types, who say, "We have to govern now" against the movement types. Partly the reason we haven't seen this moderate conservative fault line as much is the stakes are so high that people recognize that each seat could matter here. If you as a matter of principle knock off an incumbent, you might jeopardize the seat, and that might in turn jeopardize Tom DeLay becoming the majority leader. So we've seen a little bit of a toning down in most cases. We don't see it on the Democratic side when you have the two candidates incumbents pitted against one other.
MARGARET WARNER: Especially forced to run against each other.
NORMAN ORNSTEIN: But all around the country has been toned down, the normal kind of rhetoric that you get in primaries has been toned down. One example: The trade issue for Democrats which is an enormously difficult one. We just had the President sign the trade promotion authority into law. 25 Democrats in the House supported that. Labor, which uses it as the most important issue, would normally be out there ripping them apart in primaries -- toned down right now for that reason.
MARGARET WARNER: We're let going in, Tom, into the final big group of primaries through, wouldn't you say, mid September?
THOMAS MANN: That's correct.
MARGARET WARNER: What are the really... you don't have to get into all the details of the races but are there some big ones coming up?
THOMAS MANN: There are. We still have 21 states that haven't yet held their primaries. There's some important Senate primaries, for example, North Carolina. Liddy Dole will almost certainly be the Republican nominee but the former chief of staff to Bill Clinton, Erskine Bowles, is running for the Democratic nomination favored by challenged by two other candidates and perhaps the most interesting one of all is in New Hampshire where incumbent Senator Bob Smith is being challenged by Congressman Sununu in the Republican primary and the Republican Party establishment is pretty much lined up against Sununu. This is a case where Smith represents, I would argue, more of the movement kind of conservative, Sununu is a more acceptable mainstream Republican.
MARGARET WARNER: What else would you add to that about the upcoming primaries?
NORMAN ORNSTEIN: Well New York for the gubernatorial race where the Democrats are going through an extremely bitter contest to take on Governor George Pataki. He's sitting back with glee watching Andrew Cuomo and Carl McCall go at one another. There's an interesting more symbolic race because it doesn't pit an incumbent against another. But in Georgia Cynthia McKinney, a highly controversial figure and a race that's taken on enormous national proportions.
MARGARET WARNER: House member, Democrat, African American.
NORMAN ORNSTEIN: House member, Democrat, African American who has taken a very strongly anti-Israel position and suggests that perhaps President Bush knew about September 11 in advance. There's a very attractive African American candidate running against her getting enormous support from supporters of Israel while McKinney is getting tremendous support from Arabs but also Republicans alienated about what she said about bush are putting in a lot of resources to encourage their own people to vote against McKinney.
THOMAS MANN: Margaret, two other primaries we should let pass. One the Florida gubernatorial Democratic nomination where Janet Reno is running against Bill McBride. That's an important race to watch. In a House one right here in the suburbs of Washington, Connie Morela is the most threatened House Republican running for re-election. And Mark Shriver part of the Kennedy clan is running against two other Democrats and a very hotly contested primary.
MARGARET WARNER: Now let's... in the brief time we have left let's look at the lay of the land because all of this is aiming toward November. What's the lay of the land for the House?
THOMAS MANN: It's a very narrow Republican majority. Democrats need only six seats to pick up the majority. Republicans now hold 223 seats. Democrats have 211. And add the vacant seat and you see what it takes. Of those seats, though less than 10 percent are really in play, Margaret -- 40 to reach. And of those 40 I'd say probably a dozen are toss-ups where we wouldn't be prepared to say who is likely to win. So if you were to look at the race from the bottom up, it looks like we'd see very little change because both parties are exposed to roughly the same degree.
MARGARET WARNER: How about in the Senate?
NORMAN ORNSTEIN: Let me add Margaret that in the dozen or two dozen very close seats we're going to get as much spending as in many Senate races. The Senate of course we have a margin of one -- 50 Democrats 49 Republicans -- Jim Jeffords switching to independent status. The Democrats should be at an advantage here because of the 34 seats that are up. Republicans have 20 so they have more to hold, more to lose, more to protect.
But if you look at the close contests, we could narrow it down to eight to 10. They're pretty evenly divided between the two parties and there will be plenty of resources on both sides. Idiosyncrasies can occur. We had just this last week a seat that most observers would have said was pretty safe for the Democrats in new jersey where, of course, incumbent Bob Torricelli suddenly is now embattled and facing the fight of his life.
MARGARET WARNER: And the governorships.
THOMAS MANN: That's where you find real competition, Margaret. You don't see huge proportion of seats uncontested. Republicans now hold 27 of the 50 governorships. 21 held by Democrats, two by independents. Republicans are exposed. They have 23 seats up. Even though more of their members are safe in this race, they are the ones exposed. They are going to lose some seats. The question is, is it one or two or is it four or five?
MARGARET WARNER: It's a tough year, you both agree, for incumbents in governorships.
NORMAN ORNSTEIN: It's a tough year because of the state of the economy. They benefited from the national economy the last time they ran. Now they're going to have greater trouble. The mood is turning a little bit sour more generally out there.
MARGARET WARNER: We have to leave it there. Thank you, both.
NORMAN ORNSTEIN: Thank you, Margaret.