We’ve heard a lot of handwringing in the media over the supposed “nightmare” of conservative resurgence in the GOP, but one pollster watching the 2009 races carefully says just the opposite.  Public Policy Polling, which has conducted a number of surveys in New York, New Jersey, and Virginia, expects Republicans to do well tonight in all three races, but not just because of a fired-up conservative base.  Instead, they point to massive defections of independents from the Democrats, which is the true “nightmare” scenario for the party in power:

In NY-23 despite the presence more or less of two Republican candidates on the ballot, Doug Hoffman is winning 71% of the GOP vote to Bill Owens’ 67% of the Democratic vote. Hoffman leads Owens 52-30 with independents.

In New Jersey Chris Christie is getting 82% of the Republican vote while Jon Corzine is at 72% of the Democratic vote. Christie leads 52-29 with independents. …

From the high levels of party unity it’s clear that Republicans voters see the path back to power will require staying on the same page. And whether it’s because the Democrats have bad candidates or they’re unhappy with President Obama, independents are giving the GOP very high levels of support. It should be the best Republican election night since George W. Bush got reelected.

While the media gasses on about the “Stalinist” GOP and their drive for ideological purity, they ignore this aspect of the 2009 elections.  Independents have grown entirely disenchanted with the Democrats.  On their two major domestic policy initiatives, health care and cap-and-trade, Democrats have alienated independents with a radical agenda light-years removed from their promises to provide moderate, fiscally responsible governance.

This points the way to success in 2010 for the GOP.  Republicans can win big not by becoming Democratic Lite or by conducting ideological purges across a wide spectrum of issues. Instead, the GOP needs to focus on core principles to build a governing coalition with a broad reach — on limited federal government and fiscal responsibility.  Those represent the best principles of conservative governance, and after watching Democrats run amuck with taxpayer money this year, will have enormous appeal to independents.

There really is only one caveat: Republican candidates running on this platform have to mean what they say.  No more K Street projects, no more porkfests, no more Big Government Conservatism that grows the federal government and impoverishes the taxpayers.  If given a chance to govern, Republicans have to follow through on these core principles. If they do not, they will break the back of the party — and perhaps make all the handwringing over third-party mirages a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Update (AP): Not sure when this aired, but Jim Geraghty tweeted a few minutes ago that Creigh Deeds’s spokesman told MSNBC that they’re getting their butts kicked by independents today.