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Post-Election Analysis

Now that most results from Tuesday's election are in, KSMU's Missy Shelton talks with Missouri State University Political Science Professor Mark Rushefsky.

Shelton: We heard this morning that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is stepping down. Did this news surprise you at all?

Rushefsky: Yes and no. It did because it came today but there were certainly things pointing to the direction that he needed to leave. There was a lot of unhappiness in the military and we saw that Monday when the Army Times, Navy Times and Air Force Times all printed editorials calling for his resignation. And then I think you had the election and the Iraq study group coming out with its support which is going to come out with their report next week. It's going to suggest changes in direction. This is a symbolic, we're going to make some changes and a concession that things haven't gone the way we wanted them to go. But I think there were things pointing to the direction that he would step down. Whether the president asked him or not, I don't know and he's not saying.

Shelton: As far as the direction of the country in the next couple of years...we have a democratic House and possibly a democratic Senate. What does this mean for the president and the path he will take the next couple of years?

Rushefsky: He's going to have to reach out to the democrats. Even if Allen wins in Virginia and the Republicans maintain control, it's still going to be very tight control. He does have some experience reaching out to democrats. He did that when he was governor of Texas with a democratic legislature. He had to do that in 2001 and 2002 and for 18 months, the senate went democratic. He does need to work with them more than he has in the subsequent years. And in that period, he was able to get some of his agenda passed: No Child Left Behind, tax bills. So things can obviously be done. The democrats of course have things they want to do. It will be harder for them to do it if Allen wins in Virginia. And even if James Webb wins, George Bush is still the president and you still have to get things past him. And while they have majorities, they are slim majorities so the president might be more eager to use the veto than he has in the past. So, they're going to have their agenda of things they want to do and the democrats and Bush administration are going to have to come together to get things done.

Shelton: When we have a set up like this, do voters win?

Rushefsky: There's some evidence to suggest that. We're talking about divided government where the president is of one party and the other party controls at least one house of Congress. There's an active debate on this, whether you get things done or get into gridlock. The answer seems to be mixed but you can get things done. Another example, in 199 when we had a republican congress and a democratic president and we passed welfare reform. Of course, there was some budget problems in 1995 and the government shut down a couple of times but then there was more compromise. There's also some evidence to suggest that spending doesn't go up quite so fast when you have unified party control because divided control acts as a check. I've seen the data from a conservative economist who was arguing maybe the republicans should lose and saying there are no controls on spending when one party controls everything and now you're going to have controls on that.

Shelton: With the democrats controlling the US House, Congressman Roy Blunt will no longer be the House Majority Whip. Does that mean Southwest Missouri loses out in some way?

Rushefsky: Congressman Blunt was able to bring some money to Southwest Missouri and that's what members of congress do. It helps them get re-elected. This is actually one of the problems the Republicans have had. They use the budget for re-election purposes and have put a lot of earmarks in. And we have benefited from that but it does hurt in the fiscal discipline stuff. But getting back to the specific questions, yeah it's probably going to hurt Southwest Missouri a little bit that Congressman Blunt is in the minority. That is a consideration. On the other hand, Blunt easily won re-election.