There are a few important elections happening on the east coast on Tuesday that may affect the outlook heading into next year’s midterms. The results from these election will likely frame the media debate for the next 12 months. Will the results show a quick turnaround in voter rebuke from the 2008 general elections? Will the Democrats hold strong in key states? And what role will the results have in 2010 nominations?
First off, the most attention is being given to a peculiar race in northern New York’s 23rd district. In a district that has been reliably Republican since the 19th century, far right Republicans have gone against their party and supported a third-party conservative candidate. The aftermath of this move will weigh heavily on the party next year.
As I said, the 23rd district has not voted against the Republicans since the 1800s. The special election is being held because of the earlier resignation by John McHugh to take on the role of United States Secretary to the Army. After the resignation, the Republican party had a tough time finding a candidate that would run for the position. Obviously such a diehard conservative location shouldn’t have had a hard time finding a candidate. What hasn’t been talked about a lot by the Republicans during their internal power struggle is that after the 2010 census and by the 2012 election the district will be re-zoned out of the state landscape. The 23rd district will be swallowed up among neighboring zones, all of which lean to the left. So whoever wins the 2009 special election, must win again in 2010, then will lose their seat by 2012 – essentially they may have a job for 3 years and need to win 3 elections in that time.
The Republican Party ended up nominating a moderate – moderate being used loosely – candidate. Deirdre Scozzafava’s voting record is moderate to liberal, voting against her party on many conservative issues such as bailouts, abortion rights and gay marriage. This track record made many in the party uneasy, and it was brought to the attention of some of the far right media types with strong voices in the masses. The stars aligned perfectly for Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman as the endorsements from Palin, Rush, Hannity, Malkin, Beck and many more conservative Republicans started mounting. Without any track record or a defined platform, Hoffman jumped into the lead and the mounting pressure has forced Scozzafava from removing herself from the ballot.
Depending on your party affiliation the narrative that this situation has wrought varies greatly. If you are liberal, this election represents all that is wrong with the Tea Party movement and the Republican Party elites. They are framing it as the Republican Party looking to push out moderates and become a fringe party for only right-wing nuts. If you are strongly conservative, you look at this as a huge victory for the grassroots. They pushed out the party candidate and put a stronger ideologue into a winning position. And after Scozzafava endorsed the Democrat challenger Owens, its tough to argue they are wrong.
My opinion lies a bit in the middle but more hopeful that a few victories could build momentum into 2010. Polling on this race is hard to call. Hoffman should win, but no one knows which way it will go with so many developments so close to election day. I like the fact the conservative candidate was given a chance to prove his worth. He is definitely someone I would support over Dede. He is not a very impressive speaker and will probably get the Bachmann microscope treatment whether everything he does will be scrutinized by the media. But from the limited information I’ve been able to gather about him, he does seem like a more true Republican candidate. However, I fear the party elites will take too much credit for this victory and misplace the lesson learned into being an omen that more right-wing conservatives need to run in order for the party to win. They are really in a win/win situation – as I showed above this is a very low risk district. I think the party needs to take a more strategic approach in each 2010 race – a mix of moderates and far right candidates depending on the demographics in the region. I hope this doesn’t turn into a 12 month initiative by Rush and the like to churn out only right-wing ideological candidates in what should be a strong midterm.
In other newsworthy races and referendums:
- Virginia governor race to replace Tim Kaine looks to be solidly in the Republican column. Latest poll numbers show Republican candidate Bob McConnell should defeat the Democrat, Creigh Deeds by somewhere in the 12 to 17 point neighborhood. Deeds ran a very negative campaign and even the White House’s campaigning seems to have not helped the Democratic primary victor. The irony is, as Joe Scarborough points out in this hilarious video from Monday’s Morning Joe, less than a year ago liberal analysts were playing Obama’s victory in Virginia as a major breakthrough for the Democrats. In 11 months that momentum has gone away.
- The negative campaigning in New Jersey has led to a deadlock that is too close to call. Polls for Corzine (D) and Christie (R) vary on who is winning. The major confound is the effect independent candidate Daggett will have on Christie’s voters. As of now it looks like Daggett will take 10% of the vote, most of which is from votes the Republican should feel like he would earn. Corzine does not deserve to win his seat back, however will the voters of New Jersey vote against their history? No matter which way this election goes, it is a major coup for the Republicans to be so competitive in a Democratic machine powered State.
- New York Mayor Bloomberg will be elected to his third term after changing the state laws to extend his own term limits. Smart move apparently if you have $100 million to blow.
- Maine voters have an opportunity to overrule the state legislation’s gay marriage law. Even though it is an off year election, the conservatives do not have the advantage you’d think to ban gay marriage in the state. Rather it is somewhere between 1 to 4 points either way. Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com has those opposing gay marriage as a 5 to 2 underdog going into the evening.