Republican gubernatorial candidates racked up major wins for the GOP in Virginia and New Jersey Tuesday night as Democrats scored a single victory in a special congressional election in upstate New York.
Former Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell and New Jersey prosecutor Chris Christie claimed the governor's offices for the GOP in both their states, handing national Republicans a pair of high-profile successes they hailed as a warning shot at the governing Democratic Party.
In NY-23, Bill Owens won a special election over Doug Hoffman after a moderate, liberal Republican, Dede Scozzafava, was driven from the race days ago, throwing her support behind the Democratic Owens.
Watertown Daily Times reports:
Democrat Bill Owens is leading in the 23rd Congressional District race.
The Plattsburgh attorney has 60,916 votes compared to Conservative Doug Hoffman, a Lake Placid CPA, with 56,579 votes.
Dede Scozzafava, a Republican who dropped out of the race Saturday, has 6,866 votes.
Had Scozzafava's name not still been on the ballot, things might have been different.
Exit Polls showed some interesting numbers about the so-called "Obama factor", though in the other races.
And what about the Obama factor? President Obama campaigned for both the Democratic gubernatorial candidates, even visiting New Jersey as recently as Sunday to stump for Jon Corzine.
Still, majorities of voters in both states (56 percent in Virginia and 60 percent in New Jersey) said President Obama was not a factor in their vote today. Those who said Mr. Obama was a factor in New Jersey divided as to whether their vote was a vote for the president (19 percent) or against him (19 percent). In Virginia, slightly fewer voters said their vote was for Mr. Obama (17 percent) than against him (24 percent).
Among Corzine supporters in New Jersey, 38 percent said one reason for their vote was to express support for Mr. Obama, while 39 percent of Christie voters said it was to express opposition to Mr. Obama.
In Virginia, among backers of the Democratic candidate, Creigh Deeds, 38 percent said their vote was in part to support the president, while 42 percent of McDonnell voters said their vote was in part to oppose the president.
In New Jersey, Christie is the first Republican in 12 years to win statewide and was overspent by his challenger, the incumbent Jon S. Corzine, by 2 to 1 as well as Obama visiting the state 3 times to try to help Corzine get reelected.
More from the NYT.
Washington Post on the exit polls and what they showed.
The most significant change came among independent voters, who solidly backed Democrats in 2006 and 2008 but moved decisively to the Republicans on Tuesday, according to exit polls. In Virginia, independents strongly supported Republican Robert F. McDonnell in his victory over Democrat R. Creigh Deeds, while in New Jersey, they supported Republican Chris Christie in his win over Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine.
For months, polls have shown that independents were increasingly disaffected with some of Obama's domestic policies. They have expressed reservations about the president's health-care efforts and have shown concerns about the growth in government spending and the federal deficit under his leadership.
What does all this mean? Nothing spectacular at this point but a couple valuable lessons can be learned from a variety of points.
First, the GOP learned that conservative activists are not going to stand down when the Republican leaders choose a liberal Republican like Dede Scozzafava and would rather lose an election than have a Democrat in Republican clothing take it.
Second, hiding behind Obama's coattails as Corzine tried to do, might not be the safest place for moderate Democrats and won't carry them past the finish line.
The most important though, in my mind, is mentioned by The Politico in their piece called "Democrats, incumbents get wake-up call":
Independents took flight from Democrats. They suffered humiliating gubernatorial losses in traditionally Democratic New Jersey, where Obama lent his prestige in a pair of eleventh-hour campaign rallies Sunday, and in Virginia, which had been trending leftward and just last year was held up as an example of how Obama was redrawing the political map in his favor.
Tuesday night’s trends were emphatically not in Obama’s favor. Among those paying closest attention are dozens of Democrats who won formerly Republican congressional districts in 2006 and 2008 and are up for reelection in 2010. Many of these pickups that powered the Democrats’ recapture of Congress came in Southern and border states, or in the Ohio River Valley, where political conditions are similar to those in Virginia.
Obama now faces a much tougher challenge persuading these mostly moderate Democrats to put themselves further at risk by backing such liberal priorities as expanding government’s role in heath care or limiting greenhouse gases.
Handicappers are already predicting double digit losses for the House Democrats and moderates that have been on the fence over a public option as part of Obamacare, those who have been pushed and shoved and pressured by Pelosi to support the public option, now understand they will be replaced in 2010 if they do not vote the way their constituents want them to.
Their first priority is their districts and their state's voters, not to the Democratic party.
The thing to watch for now is how they, the moderate Democrats widely known as the Blue Dogs, the ones at serious risk react and respond.
All eyes on them and make sure your representative knows how you feel.
[Update] Even those not at risk are "feeling at risk."
Jim Costa’s path to reelection isn’t the toughest among House Democrats, but that doesn’t mean the California Democrat feels safe voting for a House health care overhaul bill that he says is too costly and does too little to help rural districts like his own.
“I think we’re all vulnerable next year,” said Costa, who won with nearly three-quarters of the vote last year in a district that President Barack Obama carried with 60 percent.
Costa is one of a handful of moderate House Democrats from relatively stable districts who aren’t yet on board with the health care bill and whose “no” votes could force colleagues in more marginal districts to cast offsetting — and potentially perilous — “yes” votes.
Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) — from a 59 percent Obama district — is another. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who won with 69 percent of the vote in 2008 and has never gotten less than 59 percent, is also in play, calling himself “undecided.”
There will be spin from both sides on the two wins for the GOP and the single Democratic win, but when all is said and done, politicians know that it will be the voters who decide if they stay or go and we will see who acts accordingly.