REPUBLICANS CROWED in 2004 that freshly re-elected President George W. Bush had established a "permanent governing majority" for the GOP. Eight years later, Democrats were touting the enduring power of the "Obama coalition" to keep their party in the White House.
But Democrats couldn't sustain that coalition for this year's midterm elections, leading to Republican gains in Congress, governorships and state legislatures nationwide.
"The notion of demographics as destiny is overblown," said Republican pollster and media strategist Wes Anderson. "Just like [Bush aide Karl] Rove was wrong with that 'permanent majority' talk, Democrats have to remember that the pendulum is always swinging."
So how will it swing in 2016? Is the path to 270 electoral votes so fixed that one side just can't win? Do Obama's unpopularity carry over into the next race for the White House? Or will an increasingly diverse electorate pick a Democrat for a third consecutive presidential election for the first time since Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman won five straight elections from 1932 to 1948?
Despite Democrats' midterm shellacking and talk of a "depressed" liberal base, many in the party still like their starting position for 2016. Ruy Teixiera, a Democratic demographer, points to a group of states worth 242 electoral votes that Democratic presidential nominee has won in every election since 1992. Hold them all, and the party is just 28 votes shy of the majority needed to win the White House next time.
- Across Cuba, where migrating to the U.S. is an obsession, the widespread jubilation over last week's historic U.S-Cuba detente is soured by fear that warming relations will eventually end Cubans' unique fast track to legal American residency.
For nearly a half-century, the Cuban Adjustment Act has given Cubans who arrive in the U.S. a virtually guaranteed path to legal residency and eventual citizenship. The knowledge that they will be shielded from deportation has drawn hundreds of thousands of Cubans on perilous raft trips to Florida and land journeys through Central America and Mexico.
U.S. officials say there are no immediate plans to change immigration laws or policy. But with the U.S. and Cuba negotiating a return to full diplomatic relations, many Cubans are wondering how long their extraordinary privilege can survive under restored diplomacy, and are thinking about speeding up plans to get to the U.S.
- The father of a Jordanian pilot captured by the Islamic State group in Syria pleaded for his son's release, asking him to treat him well in captivity as a fellow Muslim.
So far, there has been silence from the extremists about the fate of their captive, 1st Lt. Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh, since gunmen from the group dragged him away following his crash Wednesday morning.
Al-Kaseasbeh was carrying out air strikes against the militants when his warplane crashed near the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, the Islamic State group's de facto capital. The group has executed captured Iraqi and Syrian Muslim soldiers in the past - it follows an extremist version of Islam that considers rivals, even some Sunni Muslims, as apostates. Still, the group may want to negotiate a prisoner swap or other concessions from Jordan.
The pilot's father, Safi Yousef al-Kaseasbeh, made his plea while speaking to journalists in the Jordanian capital, Amman.
- A U.S. traveler detained for months in East Timor has been release.
Stacey Addison, 41, of Portland, was arrested in September shortly after crossing the border into the Southeast Asia nation. The veterinarian was sharing a taxi with a stranger who asked the driver to stop the car so he could pick up a package. Police stopped the vehicle, determined the package contained methamphetamine and took everybody to the station.
Addison was released from jail after a few days, but was ordered to remain in East Timor during the investigation. Then, in October, a prosecutor persuaded a court to rescind Addison's conditional release and she was taken to a women's prison despite not being charged with a crime.
- Workers restored power yesterday to tornado-scarred Columbia, while volunteers helped clear rubble, cover roofs and do whatever else they could to help the Mississippi town recover.