You win some, you lose one. President Bush may have made history in November, but December dealt him a minor political setback. A Senate runoff in Louisiana, where incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu had earlier failed to win a majority, gave newly minted Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott a shot at a four-seat cushion. Ms. Landrieu's challenger, a little-known moderate named Suzanne Terrell, pulled even in the polls after Republicans poured millions into the month-long campaign and President Bush swooped in for an 11th-hour rally. But in the end, history held in Louisiana, which has never elected a Republican to the Senate: Ms. Landrieu won, 52 percent to 48 percent.
If the Landrieu victory staggered the "Republican sweep" storyline, Senate Leader Trent Lott's comments at a 100th birthday party for Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) sent it crumpling to the canvas. The Mississippi senator joked that America would be better off today if the rest of the country had followed his state's lead and elected Sen. Thurmond president back in 1948, when the South Carolinian was running as a segregationist candidate. The controversy smoldered for several days before Sen. Lott issued a two-sentence apology. Other, more apologetic apologies followed. President Bush excoriated Sen. Lott in a speech that accompanied an executive order clearing the way for portions of the president's faith-based initiative. The senator said he agreed with the president's criticism but still didn't get the hint, insisting in a nationally televised news conference he was not leaving the leadership. By the weekend, the Republican rebellion was on, though it wasn't scheduled to be resolved until January. That promises to keep the issue alive through the holidays. Not a bad gift for a Democratic leadership that spent Thanksgiving dreaming of a "bah humbug" Christmas.
If Trent Lott can't take a hint, Al Gore sure can. After an out-of-character guest gig on NBC's Saturday Night Live, the vanquished 2000 presidential hopeful and former vice president hit the CBS airwaves Sunday night taped; he appeared on 60 Minutes to announce he would not run in 2004. The move opened up an already wide-open Democratic race to seize the presidential nomination.