From the ebullient chair of the NRCC, Tom Cole:
“Tonight, Jim Ogonowski sent a message to the Washington establishment and the Democratic Party that will reverberate throughout next year’s election. Democrats have officially forfeited the mantle of change.
“Jim’s hard-fought, grassroots campaign, exposed a shift in the political tide, and most impressively, he did it in the bluest of blue states. He proved that a Republican challenger, who centers their campaign on the core issues of lower taxes, less government spending, respect for the rule of law, and most importantly, the issue of bringing change to Washington, can effectively garner votes from independents and swing voters.
“Democrats have a reason to worry. In a race that should have been won in a walk, Democrats were forced to funnel a massive amount of resources and dispatch an all-star cast of liberal icons at the 11th hour in order to ensure victory.
“As their approval ratings have shown, people have already grown angry with the Democrat-led Congress. In a little over nine months, they have gone from being perceived as agents of change and the answer to the problem in Washington to becoming the actual problem. Jim Ogonowski, while unsuccessful in his bid to change Washington, just opened the door for future Republican candidates seeking a path to victory in 2008.”
Well -- this isn't an elite liberal district, as anyone who ever worked for Marty Meehan can tell you. It is insular and provincial and distrusts outsiders; Tsongas lived outside the district before she ran. Though it has stayed in Democratic hands since the 70s, Tsongas still outperformed Gov. Deval Patrick here by two or three points; George H, W. Bush won this congressional district in 1992, as did Mitt Romney in 2002.
Still, Tsongas could have lost -- Ogonowski was a great candidate -- a friendly Iraq war vet who ran on a message of reform and had lots of GOP netroots support. She closed the campaign on the S-CHIP debate, and that helped her quite a bit.
Cole's triumphalism is misplaced. At best -- and this is pretty good -- Ogonowski's run is a blueprint for Republican congressional candidates to run in 2008.