WEDNESDAY: What Elephants Never Forget

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IT WAS always thus: Republicans who run on tax cuts — realistic ones, Mr. Dole — slaughter Democrats. That's the story from around the nation as the GOP swept the top races in Tuesday's election: the Virginia and New Jersey state houses, New York’s city hall and a single House seat on Staten Island. "Great momentum!" cheered Republican Party chairman Jim Nicholson.

Of course, the power of the party pocketbook meant a lot, too. The RNC poured a veritable landfill of soft money — $1.5 million — into Staten Island alone. But Democrats would be wise to heed the lesson of Virginia, where former attorney general Jim Gilmore was elected on the strength of his pledge to scrap the hated personal property tax on cars and trucks — what he called "the people's issue." He was right.

"The race in Virginia will be a model for other races next year," said Nicholson, while Newt Gingrich praised Gilmore for staying "on-message." Democrats consoled themselves with looking forward to next year's mid-term race, and shook their fists at the GOP tax-cut advantage. "You cannot allow Republicans to get the advantage on taxes," said Vermont governor Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. "You have to neutralize them on that issue." Danger, Dick Gephardt!