UPDATE: A Tiny Ripple Does Not Make A Tsunami
Tell your friends you read it here first. Don’t bother watching the wall-to-wall cable television coverage of today’s handful of odd-year elections.
Robert McDonnell, the Republican candidate, will be elected governor of Virginia. Barring a minor miracle, incumbent New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine will lose to Republican Chris Christie. Douglas Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate, will trounce Democrat Bill Owens in the 23rd Congressional district of New York.
UPDATE: (12:15 a.m. Wednesday). Actually, Owens pulled it out based on Fox News projections. Folks, two out of three ain’t bad since my chyrstal ball has only 10-50 vision.
Those are the highly hyped races across the nation. Don’t believe for a minute the clucking you hear from Republican faithful. Give them their due and hand them a broom for the clean sweep. Too early for a trend, guys.
The significance of these races are not the epicenter of a tsunami. It is more like a gentle storm wave lapping on the shores of a political chapter written in stone years ago. That is, the party in power in Congress invariably loses seats during the mid-term elections which, by the way, won’t occur until a year from now for the rest of the nation.
Virginians are especially in lockstep with that axiom, again invariably electing a governor from the opposite party in power in the nation’s capitol. McDonnell could see a sea change in his favor in the 100 members of the Virginia House of Delegates, its lower house. The current make-up is 53 Republicans, 44 Democrats, 2 Independents, and 1 vacancy. The senate’s 40-members are not up for reelection until 2011. There, the Democrats hold 21-19 majority. If you are looking at trends, forget McDonnell and look at any party shuffling in the House of Delegates.
By last weekend, Corzine pulled within two points of the Republican Christie and will need a flat-out blitz by Democratic voters in Newark to eke out a victory. The New Jersey legislature now consists of 23 Democrats and 17 Republicans in the senate and 48 Democrats and 32 Republicans in the General Assembly. New Jersey, a solid blue state, is unlikely to witness a change in power in its legislature. Chalk this up to Corzine’s unpopularity of raising taxes, job approval ratings below 40%, state unemployment and his former association with one of the nation’s bailed out financial institutions, Goldman Sachs.
Other than the bizarre way it unfolded, the fact a conservative independent would lose the 23rd congressional seat in New York is surprising. A Democrat hasn’t won in that district since the Civil War, or at least a very long time.
The general thinking among the pols is these elections are a referendum on President Barack Obama. I say it’s a bit premature to cast doubts on the president’s agenda at this early stage. Next November is a different story. By then we will have a clear picture on the success or failure of the health reform movement, climate change, Afghanistan and the economy.
As of now, the biggest drawback to Obama and the Democratic congress is unemployment and excessive government spending programs. The New York Times offers these thumbnail sketches of other races around the nation, including several involving same-sex marriage which is a test to see how much clout the conservatives swing.
In the coming months, it will be exciting to watch conservatives flex their muscles — actually it’s more like outshouting their more moderate Republican brethren. Reports the Los Angeles Times:
The rebellion that drove a moderate Republican (Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava in New York’s 23rd) off the ballot in a special House election is sending a clear message to the party leadership and its candidates: Ignore the conservative grass roots at your peril.
I find the conservative civil war with Republicans intriguing. You can bet that proverbial paycheck by next year there will be more than the reported 20% registered voters considering themselves Republicans. But even registration in the high 30 percentile rarely wins elections.
Their propaganda machine is in full throat and framing the national debate in their favor in which we see Newt Gingrich as the voice of reason and the Sarah Palins and her faithful “me too” follower Tim Pawlenty hammering away from the far right. Of course, it backfired in the 23rd with voters rejecting Hoffman, possibly because he didn’t live in the district and was out of touch on local issues. This proves that all politics are local. Right Mrs. Palin and Mr. Pawlenty?
The biggest thing about midterm elections is apathy. Those millions of new voters thrilled by the campaign of the first black president will be sitting this one out. Why? I don’t know other than there’s no presidential standard bearer. It’s always been that way.
This midterm election cycle is even worse, especially in the rural areas. The reason? It’s the economy, stupid. Again the Los Angeles Times gives us a clue from rural America.