Tuesday election and the Democrats

Karl Rove:

Democratic enthusiasm for President Barack Obama's liberal domestic agenda—particularly for a government-run health insurance program—could wane after the results of the gubernatorial elections next Tuesday in Virginia and New Jersey. GOP victories in either state will tell Democrats in red states and districts that support for Obama's policies is risky to their political health.

The more significant is the open race for governor in Virginia, a purple state. The Washington Post poll released Monday showed 55% support for Republican Attorney General Bob McDonnell and 44% for Democratic State Senator Creigh Deeds. The president is trying to reverse these numbers by stumping the state for Mr. Deeds.

Mr. McDonnell has relentlessly focused on the economy, transportation and education. Mr. Deeds tried to make the race about abortion and his opponent's supposed animus toward working women. But Mr. McDonnell understood that anti-Obama, anti-Washington sentiment was not enough to win and bent the contest back to jobs, roads and schools. He also has a good ground game to turn out the vote, which the GOP hasn't done for too many years in Virginia.

If Republicans also win the races for lieutenant governor and attorney general by five points or more, it will strengthen the case of those predicting a GOP "wave" in 2010.

Also watch the races for the 100-member Virginia House of Delegates. Republicans are hoping to add four seats to the 53 they now have. The bigger the GOP gains, the larger the warning for Democrats nationally.

Reaction against Mr. Obama and his policies plays a smaller role in the New Jersey governor's race. There, voters are principally concerned with whether they should keep incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine.

In 59 public surveys since January, Mr. Corzine has been at or above 42% just six times, normally a terminal condition for an incumbent. But Mr. Corzine opted out of New Jersey's campaign finance system, spending at least $24 million so far to Republican Chris Christie's $9 million.


Two other elections on Tuesday's ballot have national implications: the New York Congressional District 23 special election and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court race. The special election in New York's nominally Republican district 23 was brought about when the White House lured an otherwise unbeatable GOP Congressman, John McHugh, into giving up his seat to become Secretary of the Army.

The contest shows the danger of smoke-filled backrooms in the age of tea parties and town-hall angst. New York law says each party's 11 county chairmen in the district pick their candidate. The local GOP chieftains settled on Dede Scozzafava, a five-term liberal Republican state assemblywoman. This led one of the disappointed nomination seekers, accountant Doug Hoffman, to mount a red meat campaign for the seat on the Conservative Party line.

With the GOP vote split, the lackluster Democrat standard-bearer, Bill Owens, is likely to win. If that happens, the combined vote of Ms. Scozzafava and Mr. Hoffman will signal what a GOP candidate chosen in a primary could get in the 2010 general election. House Republican leaders could help unite the party by saying now, before the election, that Mr. Hoffman is welcome to caucus with the GOP if he wins.


The NY-23 race is an example of how Republican leaders can really blow it when they are out of touch with the Republican base. It is not like the Tea Party movement sneaked up on them.

Stuart Rothenberg also has an interesting analysis. He says the "clearest evidence that the Virginia gubernatorial race is over - apart from a blizzard of surveys showing Republican Bob McDonnell well over the 50 percent mark in the ballot test and leading Democrat Creigh Deeds by double digits in many surveys - is that White House insiders have already passed the word that it is Deeds who blew the race."

It is also the clearest evidence of a White House that is more into blame shifting than taking responsibility. That is why they never pass up a chance to blame Bush for their current difficulties. At some point others are going to notice their childish lack of responsibility.


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