Michael Barone sees some good news for Republicans in a few places where they rarely find it.  In New York, New Jersey, and even in Barack Obama’s Illinois, Barone finds Republicans taking surprising early leads in important races.  And Virginia may have drifted back into the red column as well:

In the 20th District of New York, vacated by the appointment of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Republican nominee Jim Tedisco leads Democratic nominee Scott Murphy, 50 percent to 29 percent, according to Tedisco’s pollster. That’s not bad, but it’s certainly not dispositive. Tedisco benefits from high name identification; he’s the Assembly minority leader (and it’s quite a small minority: Republicans have 41 seats and Democrats 109). Murphy is capable of self-financing, and in this one-media-market (Albany) district, that counts for a lot. On the other hand, it appears that Murphy has some tax problems.

I interviewed Tedisco last week on Thursday’s TEMS installment, and he’s definitely got the energy to fight for the seat.  He’s already bested Eliot Spitzer in Albany infighting, and Gillibrand only won that seat by convincing NY-20 voters of her conservative credentials.  Tedisco has the highest profile of anyone likely to run for that seat, and his victory would boost Republicans fighting against the big-spending policies of the Democrats in the House.

In New Jersey, Quinnipiac reports that U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie leads incumbent Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, 44 percent to 38 percent. That’s a pretty dismal number for Corzine. He’s got all the money in the world to overcome it, but it may take more than money. New Jersey is in dreadful fiscal shape, with high taxes and oodles of big government.

Well, I’d wait a while before counting out Corzine.  He’s a tough politico, and Republicans have a history of fading at the finish in the Garden State.  However, 38% barely covers the Democratic registration in New Jersey, which means that Corzine has managed to marginalize himself with the independents.   Will that continue to be the case?  I’d guess that Obama’s performance might have a great deal to do with the answer.

In Illinois, former Chicago, Philadelphia, and New Orleans school superintendent Paul Vallas is returning to Chicago and running as a Republican for Cook County Board president. In 2002, Vallas finished a close second to Rod Blagojevich in the Democratic primary for governor.

Yes, I would bet that Illinois voters would like a do-over on that election now.  Vallas will challenge Todd Stroger, who has rather ineptly carried forward the family tradition of patronage in Cook County.  With Richard Daley fighting off a federal probe into corruption, voters might want a fresh face to balance off the Daley Machine in Chicago — but Vallas is probably still a long shot, even with his change in party affiliation.

In Virginia, pollster Scott Rasmussen shows Republican Robert McDonnell ahead of each of the three Democrats competing for their party’s nomination …

Terry McAuliffe has the biggest guns in this race, having been the DNC chair and major fundraiser for Bill Clinton during his presidency, but his national reputation as a partisan attack dog won’t help him in Virginia.  McDonnell won a state-wide race, barely, but still shows strength across the state.  This will be the race to watch for a measure of how well Obama will help or hurt the Democrats without being on the ticket himself.  Virginia is home to at least half of the Beltway crowd that doesn’t live in DC proper, but a negative reaction to Obama’s policies might start with this race.

I’d expect the Republicans to recover somewhat in the midterm and special elections over the next two years, especially if Obama continues to fumble the leadership question.  If the economy has not remarkably improved by next year, expect a landslide result against the massive expenditures Obama pushed through Congress.