Emanuel's superstitions, Schumer's faith

In Washington, the Democratic leadership reads the tea leaves in the final hours of Election Day 2006.

Michael Scherer
November 8, 2006 2:46AM (UTC)

Even on the apparent verge of victory, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the leader of the Democratic effort to retake the House, can't help appearing gloomy. "For some of us, we don't sleep at night lately," Emanuel explained just after 3 p.m., standing before a dense room of reporters at the Capitol Hill Hyatt. "Obviously anybody who has ever done politics is very nervous on Election Day." To be sure, the Illinois congressman has seen better days. The circles under his eyes have looked less like Halloween mascara. His cheeks have been less gaunt. He has done a better job filling his suit.

Emanuel came out of hiding this afternoon to appear before cameras with Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who is leading the Democratic effort to retake the Senate. The idea was to cheer on Democratic voters, but Emanuel has never been much of a cheerleader. "I am a superstitious person, so I don't like to talk about Wednesday before Tuesday is done," he dodged, when asked about the expected Democratic victory in the House. He rattled off numbers instead: Democrats are playing defense in one or two seats. There are 46 or more seats where Democrats are playing offense. And there are 10 to 12 seats that he believes both Republicans and Democrats know will flip from red to blue. "I think this is without a doubt going to be a historic midterm election," he said. But a moment later, his dark side resurfaced. "It's going to be a long night."


Compared to Emanuel, the normally dour Schumer comes across like a 16-year-old girl twirling a red, white and blue baton. "Right now, I'd rather be standing where we are than where the other party is," Schumer said. "We are also feeling very good about our turnout operations. In every part of the country they are reaching and exceeding their goals."

Schumer was just getting started. "We also got a little message from the heavens," he said. "It's raining hard in eastern Tennessee, which is the Republican part of Tennessee, and it is mild and clear in western Tennessee, which is the Democratic part of Tennessee."

Between the two of them, a strange combination of brooding and piety in the final hours of Election Day. Emanuel broods on his way to the finish line, while Schumer looks to the heavens for a sign.

Michael Scherer

Michael Scherer is Salon's Washington correspondent. Read his other articles here.

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