Early on, Tuesday night was victorious for the Republican Party no matter how varied the opinions are on what these results will mean going forward. But the surprise happened late when the voters in New York’s 23rd district rallied against the out-of-state spending and the late candidacy of Doug Hoffman, electing the moderate Democrat Bill Owens – the first Democrat elected in well over 100 years. As I mentioned in yesterday’s preview, the key message to the RNC going forward is to study every election closely, know the core issues for the electorate and nominate a candidate that can stimulate that desire. A straight ideological candidacy will not win in this day and age. Both parties have done too much to alienate middle America. So to win you have to be able to reach the coveted moderate and independent voters. That message won the Republicans two Governorships and lost them one Congressional seat.
Lets review last night’s major races:
The night started with a quick, easy win for the Bob McDonnell. The conservative Republican ran a straight-forward issue-based campaign that worked well in the commonwealth. Although seen is as strong conservative, many of his solutions to address the economy and job growth within Virginia were bi-partisan. His approach led to a 21% win among independents over his challenger. That is a 22% turnaround compared to Obama’s performance last year against John McCain. McDonnell is the type of candidate the party should use as a model going into 2010 for historically stronger red states.
The next result was the biggest of the night for the Republican Party and President Obama. In the state of New Jersey, Chris Christie upset incumbent John Corzine despite Obama visiting the state three times to campaign for Corzine. The moderate Republican killed the one-term governor among independents; nearly doubling the Democrat. Despite his strong showing among Republicans, New Jersey’s strong Democratic machine kept the race close enough to make it interesting. But in the end, a strong moderate that appealed to a base with the same key issues as the race in Virginia won because he was moderate. The media is continuing the storyline that Republicans are pushing out the moderates from their party. Yet, they destroyed their competition among independents in this election.
The final result was the hard to call race in New York’s 23rd district. There was so many oddities to this race that even Nate Silver at FiveThirtyeight.com said he couldn’t predict what would happen. But in the end, Democrat Bill Owens managed to beat the little known conservative challenger Doug Hoffman. Many right wing pundits put their neck out for this guy, and will need to do some spin work to lessen the blow. Already on Tuesday evening some were trying to say that just slapping the wrists of the Republican Party officers in NY that nominated the moderately liberal candidate was enough to be considered a victory. I saw Hoffman speak three times prior to the election and left more and more unimpressed every time I saw his awkward delivery. The short term crow the pundits backing Hoffman must eat, might actually be a blessing because I think Hoffman could have hurt the right wing much more if he remained in the public eye for a long period of time.
One key fact is that Scozzofava, the Republican nominee that dropped out, won 6% of the vote even after she dropped out. This percentage would have won if added to the Hoffman count. However the real reason for the surprising loss in the reliably conservative region had to do with the outsiders financially supporting an out of district candidate. 95% of Hoffman’s campaign contributions came from outside the district. Also, Hoffman himself was not from within the 23rd district. Reportedly, his interview to the editorial board of the largest paper in the district was horrible – solely because he didn’t know the issues within that region. Simply put, the right wing bet on the wrong pony.
Overall, it was a solid night for the Republican Party after you add in many of the smaller profile races around the nation. There is something to build from if they are able to properly analyze the results and not use them to fill some ideological belief.