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Wednesday, November 04, 2009  

Election Post-Mortem

I remember well the New Jersey and Virginia elections of 2001. Democrats were still smarting from the Florida recount when the terrorist attacks threw the whole political landscape into turmoil. Insofar as we allowed ourselves partisan thoughts in those days, the gubernatorial races in 2001 were taken to be an encouraging sign, as McGreevey and Warner won in a strongly pro-Bush atmosphere.

Well, anyone thinking that those state results boded well for the 2002 midterms had another think coming. And this makes sense when one considers one's own state's politics. I'm a pretty partisan Democrat at the federal level, but I vote for quite a few Republicans in Illinois. I suppose I'm well above-average when it comes to being informed about political issues, but I don't find it hard to distinguish between state and federal issues, and on some intuitive level I think that's true for a lot of voters.

Anyway, I suppose I'd be disappointed if I lived in New Jersey or (especially) Virginia, but there doesn't seem to be much of a national message in those elections, any more than there was in 2001. Obama is reasonably popular in both states; Corzine was very unpopular; and incumbent parties do poorly during recessions. Ideologues of all stripes tend to think that everything is about them, but often times elections have much more going on than whatever any of us happens to be exercised about at the moment.

The races that mattered on a federal level were the special elections in California and New York. In the former case, a liberal Democrat replaced a moderate one. In the latter, a conservative Democrat replaced a moderate Republican. So the House has shifted just a little to the left, giving Pelosi that much more of a margin to get strong bills passed. I'm very satisfied with this result, quite apart from the schadenfreude attendant on seeing an intra-right-wing battle turn out so badly for both factions.*

Bloomberg winning by a chastening margin might be the best outcome for New York, speaking of the emotional satisfactions of election results. The Maine result was the only real disappointment of the night for me. All the same, Washington State took a big step in the right direction by passing an initiative recognizing civil unions. It's important to remember that ten years ago, such a development was close to unthinkable.

* Whet has more: "Hoffman might have done better had Armey not dismissed upstate political issues as "parochial," and if Hoffman had seemed to have a clue about those issues; something to keep in mind when following national sources (be they pols or reporters) on local and state races is that they obviously have some bias, conscious or not, towards spinning national political stories out of local races."

That's right. So please, Republicans, do whatever Sarah Palin recommends!

MORE: I can't believe this:

On the heels of the NY-23 special House election, in which Conservative Party insurgent Doug Hoffman overtook moderate GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava, only to lose to Democrat Bill Owens, NRSC chairman John Cornyn (R-TX) has announced that the GOP's national Senate committee will not be spending money in contested primaries.

"There's no incentive for us to weigh in," Cornyn told ABC News. "We have to look at our resources."

Lemme get this straight--a party that has lost 15 senate seats in two cycles has no incentive to try to promote the more electable candidate? A party that has been spanked repeatedly by the median voter is still more afraid of its base?


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posted by Benjamin Dueholm | 2:10 PM
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