Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Tuesday's elections - some lessons

Yesterday, there were a few relatively high profile elections on the East Coast.

Call them the undercard to next year's mid-terms.

If they were on the same even-year schedule as most other elections, we probably wouldn't be talking about them, but since they are the only solid thing for political commentators to, ya know, "commentate" on, at least until next year, they've grabbed a lot of attention.

Today, pundits all over cable news are making their pronouncements on "what it all means" on the heels of the results.

Most of them consider the fact that Republican candidates won the governorships in Virginia and New Jersey to be a repudiation of President Obama.

And, as expected, every Republican who can find a microphone is absolutely crowing about it.
Most of them, pundit and Rep operative alike, are ignoring what should be one of the real lessons to be taken from yesterday's results.

Tip O'Neill wrote it more than a generation ago -

All Politics Is Local.

Not "All Politics Is Partisan."

In each of the governor's races, as well as the special election to fill a vacant Congressional seat in New York's 23rd District, there were local factors that strongly influenced the outcome of the balloting in those races.

One gubernatorial race featured a weakened incumbent while the other featured a candidate who was just plain weak. And in both races, worries about the economy played a big role in the results, too.

...At the start of his reelection campaign, incumbent, and now outgoing, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine was saddled with some of the highest property taxes in the country, one of the highest unemployment rates in the northeastern U.S. (9.8%), a pre-politics resume that included a lucrative stint as CEO of Goldman Sachs (not the jewel that it was pre-economic meltdown and bailout), and a level of personal unpopularity that sapped the enthusiasm of many New Jersey Democrats. That alone would have made his race something of an uphill battle, even for someone with his "self-funding" ability.

Mix in tawdry personal attacks on his opponent and a low turnout, and you have a recipe for an upset.

...In Virginia, the Democratic candidate could best be described as a "not ready for prime time" candidate. Creigh Deeds was an inarticulate and unenergetic "Blue Dog" wanna-be who was outfought for the political center by his opponent and the eventual winner, Bob McDonnell. McDonnell glossed over his extremely conservative social agenda in favor of a strong message on the economy.

Oh, and McDonnell had already defeated Deeds once before in a statewide race, the 2005 contest for VA AG.

In both races, while there were strong warning signs for President Obama, the Democrats, and incumbents of all political stripes ("it's the economy, stupid", low turnout among 2008 Obama voters), it seems to have come down local candidates and local conditions.

Of greater political portent may be the race to fill the vacant Congressional seat in NY-23.

After a race marked by a near-civil war within the GOP, with big-name "true" conservatives from all over the country flying in to support "their" candidate, a carpetbagger named Doug Hoffman, who was running as the Conservative Party candidate. They were so pugnacious in their criticisms of the GOP's own candidate, Dede Scozzafava, that she withdrew from the race this past weekend and endorsed the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens.

Those "true" conservatives rejoiced when Scozzafava exited from the race, figuring the way was now clear for Hoffman in a district that hasn't elected a Democrat in, like, *ever.*


So naturally, Owens won.

What the "true" conservatives ignored is that fact that their candidate, Hoffman, wasn't actually from the district, nor did he know anything about it. When asked about the needs and priorities of the district, he standard response was "I'll get back to you on that."

Have no doubt about it - the GOP will reclaim the seat in next year's election, holding it for two years. At which point, the district will be probably be redistricted out of existence because of population shifts leading to NY losing one or two seats in Congress after next year's census.

But for now, the Democratic majority in the House has grown.

After the hubbub dies down, the "big minds" will have time to actually think about the results beyond their immediate gut reactions.

Once that happens, expect three things -

1. Democrats will work at motivating last year's Obama voters to turn out for next year's elections, while the Republicans will work at redoubling their voter suppression efforts.

2. Both major parties will look for candidates who are strong on local issues and ties, not just on having lots of funding readily available. In addition to the moneyed Corzine's defeat in NJ, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg nearly lost his reelection bid yesterday, even after spending over $100 million of his own money on the campaign.

It's still possible to buy an office, but it's not cheap, nor is it guaranteed.

3. The internal conflict within the national GOP will grow; the battle for the AZGOP is long over, with the wingnuts gaining victory over a decade ago, but the circular firing squad is just forming up nationally. NY-23 was just the hors d'eouvres. The GOP should be able to gain some Congressional seats next year (that the standard pattern in midterms, with the non-Presidential party gaining), but they are already working to blunt that effect.

Even here in AZ, where the wingers are well-entrenched and should have a well-established cadre of candidates on the bench, they are trotting out self-funded "more conservative than thou" carpetbaggers to challenge Democratic incumbents in CD1 and CD5, and seriously talking up a "conservative" challenge to long-time Republican Senator John McCain. He is borderline unbeatable in a general election, but the likes of JD Hayworth, Chris Simcox, and Russell Pearce consider him to be a "RINO."

Senator Glassman, anyone?


1 comment:

Thane Eichenauer said...

Yesterday makes me truly thankful that there are plenty of Americans who rely but little upon party labels to provide a reason to vote for Candidate X.

As always political elections will continue to be a competition for every individual candidate to lay out why the voter should vote for him over his opponent.

I am no cheerleader of either Republicans nor Democrats as a group but even so I am surprised that the two congressional elections were won by Democrats - the discussions of the health care public option/coop/single payer hasn't grown any more interesting over the last couple of weeks.