Democrats lost two key elections Tuesday: the gubernatorial races in New Jersey, where Republican Chris Christie defeated incumbent Jon Corzine, and in Virginia, where Bob McDonnell defeated Creigh Deeds in a special election to fill the vacating Tim Kaine's seat.
As expected, the Republican spin-machine is in euphoric overdrive, maniacally labeling these victories a broad repudiation of President Obama's "liberal agenda" and an ominous foreshadowing of things to come for Democrats in next year's midterms. Granted, a strong night for theGOP -- winning is always better than losing -- but hardly a sign of any tidal waves of conservatism sweeping the nation, as right-wing pundits are boasting.
But what you won't hear the spinners crowing about is the shocking punch to the gut the GOP took in upstate New York's 23rd Congressional District, where a Democrat won for the first time in over 100 years. That's right, 100 years. Despite massive support from right-wing heavyweight (pun intended) Rush Limbaugh and GOP oracle Sarah Palin, Republican Doug Hoffman was defeated by Democrat Bill Owens, for whom Obama campaigned aggressively. Let me be the first to say that Owens' win is a resounding affirmation of Obama's performance.
It's important to note that, unlike NY's 23rd, the NJ and Virginia elections were won on statewide and local issues. Christie's victory can be attributed to two central themes: corruption and property taxes. Hardly a referendum on Obama or Democrats nationally. And Virginia? Well, that solidly red state hadn't voted for a Democratic president since 1964. It's a bit of a stretch to say McDonnell's win is a reshaping of the broader national political landscape. Remember that former Governor Kaine was a conservative Democrat and Obama's victory last year was a huge upset. Let's keep things in perspective: it's not like McDonnell turned Massachusetts red.
Speaking of his victory and what it all means, Christie said, "Tomorrow we're going to take back New Jersey for the least fortunate, who don't want government to fix every problem." Yeah, if we can be certain about one thing, it's that poor folks hate all that government assistance. Medicaid? Public education? Food stamps? Cash-for-clunkers? Home-buying tax credits? Mortgage relief? Yes, I'm sure the "least fortunate" would much rather see those most fortunate rich folk get huge tax cuts instead. So now Christie's "least fortunate" got what they wanted: Chris Christie to the rescue to save them from all that big-government, problem-fixing aid to the little guy. Jeez, will the little guy ever learn?
On the overall significance of Tuesday's victories for conservatives, GOP Chairman Michael Steele said, "America, through the voices of those folks in New Jersey and Virginia, had something to say." Really? And what exactly did they have to say up in NY's 23rd, where a Democrat hasn't won in over a century? Does the good chairman heed that voice, and what it says about how voters on a national level view his party and its candidates? Apparently, voters still want change, and man, did the GOP get change in NY's 23rd. Let that be a foreshadowing of things to come for the myopic, narrow-minded, small-tented, shrinking fringe-right base of the Republican Party next year.
By the way, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was re-elected after spending a reported $100-million+ to defeat Comptroller Bill Thompson by just 5%. A very painful reminder of how and why the rich often dominate politics. Interesting to think who'd be sitting in City Hall right now had Thompson's war-chest been fatter, or Bloomberg's smaller...