Lessons from Election Night

posted at 8:48 am on November 4, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Republicans had their best night in five years yesterday, winning two governorships in states that went big for Barack Obama last year.  They came closer than some would have guessed in holding a California district while running a no-name against the state’s Lieutenant Governor.  And while the local GOP botched a district in New York just as bad as they possibly could, the news from NY-23 is actually not bad at all.

Let’s start with the special election in New York.  Many of us hoped that Douglas Hoffman could pull off a remarkable outsider bid yesterday to beat Bill Owens, and he came within a couple of points of making it.  That puts a Democrat in the seat for the first time since 1993 (not 117 years as has been previously reported).   It’s never a best-case for the GOP when a Democrat wins, but by keeping Dede Scozzafava out of the seat, the GOP has the chance to win this seat back in a year with a better candidate — perhaps Hoffman, perhaps another Republican who shares core principles of limited government and fiscal conservatism.  Dislodging an incumbent Republican would have been considerably more difficult, and a unified GOP should win this district — especially given the signals sent everywhere else to Democrats.

What signals?  The GOP trounced Democrats in two states that Barack Obama won big just one year ago.  Obama beat McCain in Virginia by 13 points; Bob McDonnell won it by 17.  Republicans swept the statewide offices, reversing Democratic gains made over the last few election cycles, and are set to take at least a half-dozen Democratic seats in the legislature.  It should be remembered that the current governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine, is also the Democratic Party chair, put there in part to consolidate Democratic gains in his state.

In New Jersey, the news is even worse.  Chris Christie beat Jon Corzine by four points in a state that went for Obama by 15 points — and where a Republican hadn’t won in over ten years.  Unlike Virginia, Obama campaigned heavily for Corzine, calling him his “partner” and putting his prestige on the line.  Joe Biden made a couple of campaign appearances, too, and the White House supervised the campaign in the final weeks after Corzine initially fell behind.  Obama made the argument for Corzine all about Obama — and New Jersey, one of the bluest states in the nation, rejected him.

Obama will still be president for another three years, but the mystique is gone.  New Jersey just taught Democrats in Congress a big lesson — Obama can’t get them re-elected.  Being the President’s “partner” on his radical agenda is not a winning position; it wasn’t for Corzine in what should have been a secure blue state, and it certainly won’t be in moderate or conservative districts and states held by Democrats in the House and Senate.

That is a huge blow to Obama and his agenda, as Democrats now have to consider unpopular bills for ObamaCare and cap-and-trade in an entirely new light.  If they fall in behind Obama instead of listening to their constituents, they will find themselves in retirement after the 2010 midterms.   That’s the big lesson, and it will not be lost on moderate Democrats.

Update: Glenn Reynolds wonders whether the Obama magic is gone, too:

The Obama invincibility that was so much in evidence then seems to have lost its power. People can argue the reasons why these elections, all in places Obama carried handily, were so close. But if he were the political marvel he was thought to be, these races wouldn’t have been contests, but walkovers. So one consequence of this Election Day is the end of his special political magic.

That’s no surprise — as that magic was a largely substanceless froth whipped up by campaign consultants and compliant big-media cheerleaders.

The truth is, Obama wasn’t ready to be president when he ran in 2008. When he started, he probably thought he had no real chance — he himself admitted upon entering the Senate that he wasn’t qualified to be president — and that his first run would simply be a PR effort that would lift him to the top ranks of Senate Democrats. …

But he was right the first time about not being ready for the Oval Office. As president, he seems confused and a bit distant on the issues, leaving the details to congressional Democrats and an ever-growing number of “czars” while he golfs and launches attacks at Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.

With the economy tanking (unemployment is much worse after Obama’s deficit-swelling stimulus than Obama’s advisers predicted it would be with no stimulus at all), with the promised post-partisanship dissolving into witch-hunts against hostile media and the promised post-racial America devolving into the awkwardly staged “beer summit,” with the “necessary war” in Afghanistan the subject of endless dithering and the promised “smart diplomacy” materializing as a series of awkward missteps by Hillary Clinton, the froth has become a lot less frothy.

Unfortunately, the froth appears to be all there was.  Read the whole thing.

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pugwriter on November 4, 2009 at 1:42 PM

The issues of this election have always centered on the economy – on the need for fiscal restraint, smaller government, and policies that encourage jobs. In 2010, these issues will be even more crucial to the electorate. I commend Doug Hoffman and all the other under-dog candidates who have the courage to put themselves out there and run against the odds.

She sticks to this message, and she will definitely continue to be a force to be reckoned with.

notropis on November 4, 2009 at 1:38 PM

This is the thing about Sarah, the hard left keeps saying she is a “religious zealot” or something. Look for her to be very subdued on social issues and HAMMER Obama and the communist party on kitchen table issues like that three letter word J-O-B-S !

While the idiot left is chirping about really insignificant things about her, she is attacking them on issues that are of grave importance to the people of America.

She has a message, they has a “story.”

gary4205 on November 4, 2009 at 2:16 PM

That puts a Democrat in the seat for the first time since 1993 (not 117 years as has been previously reported).

As two others have noted, this “seat” represented a completely different region (middle NY, not northern NY) back when it had a Democrat. When it comes to the region, that’s where you get 117 years. Some reports might be sloppy with the details, but it’s misleading to portray the 1993 23rd as the same as the 2009 23rd; they don’t even overlap.

calbear on November 4, 2009 at 2:49 PM

So, this must’ve been a vote for Bush, right? Voters said they were concerned about the economy, and we’ve been told repeatedly that this is still the Bush economy.

hawksruleva on November 4, 2009 at 3:16 PM

But there are anomalies there, too. Pennsylvania, my home state, has a large number of SoCon Democrats (largely Catholic). A Dem has to downplay social issues to get elected statewide (Fat Eddie Rendell) or be a SoCon (the late Bob Casey, not the current poseur Bob Casey Jr., who is as fraudulent as the day is long).

either orr on November 4, 2009 at 11:46 AM

I hear ya. I feel like apologizing for the state. To turn PA around is one heck of a challenge.

ProudPalinFan on November 4, 2009 at 4:02 PM

How the ballot appeared to the voters in NY-23, because Owens represented two parties, and dropped-out Dede too – confusing to say the least:

1. Democratic – William L. Owens
2. Republican – Dede Scozzafava
3. Independence – Dede Scozzafava
4. Conservative – Douglas L. Hoffman
5. Working Families – William L. Owens

Schadenfreude on November 4, 2009 at 4:29 PM

The bigger they are, the harder they fall. A great man said that.

Terrye on November 4, 2009 at 4:29 PM

Heh, heh; Obama goes lame before the duck stage; EXCELLENT!

Cybergeezer on November 4, 2009 at 4:55 PM

So Barry Obama was watching a TV show about Barry Obama instead of following the election returns?

Good! The more time he spends doing anything other than his job, the better it is for the country.

Really Right on November 4, 2009 at 10:11 PM

The real lesson from Election night is simply this. Politicians are elected to represent their constituents and not their political party and especially not for their ideology.

The lesson for the GOP in regards to NY-23 is this, if you want to become a permanent minority party, have people like Dede Scozzafava as a Republican candidate in any political race and that candidate will sure to lose.

As for the Democratic party, it is an important win for them, propaganda and legislative wise but here is the catch. The economy is tanking and blaming Bush is not going to work. If the Democrats are foolish enough to pass Cap and Trade, Obama care and other Government takeover schemes. 2010 and 2012 would make 1994 look like amateur hour. And this time, there will be no re-election for the incumbent.

DinobotPrime on November 5, 2009 at 12:01 AM

And even the new Virginia governor downplayed his socially conservative views and focused on economic issues.


Sure he did, lol.

What election did you watch anyway? The wapo and his opponent made sure everyone knew about McDonnell’s social Conservative views, and when questioned about them, he didn’t run away from, or “downplay” them. And he won.

xblade on November 5, 2009 at 4:10 AM

The cities are growing, so that means so is the lib population. I’m telling you the future looks tough. Until we can figure out how to flip the large metropolitan areas, it will be an uphill battle. It just takes a handfull of big cities to over ride thousands of square miles of the good guys.

Look at the county by county election maps from the last 3 POTUS elections. A few urban cities wipe out 99% of the counties.

saiga on November 5, 2009 at 1:34 PM

Yeah, the cities rule us rural areas. Only thing is, if everything really falls apart, at least we’ll eat out here.

jodetoad on November 5, 2009 at 2:32 PM