The Good, the Bad & the Ugly (and a couple of Shockers) From Last Night's Races (UPDATED 3x)

A lot happened last.

The good. In a little talked about reace, the CA-10 seat left empty when Blu Dog Democrat Ellen Tauscher resigned to become Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, went to Progressive Democrat John Garamendi.

Then came the news that Democrat John Garamendi, who campaigned as an unapologetic backer of sweeping health-care reform, had won a big victory in the race to fill an open U.S. House seat in northern California. Garamendi, a rabble-rousing critic of big insurance companies who beat the choices of much of the party establishment in the primary, keeps a Democratic seat Democratic. But he will serve as a decidedly more progressive representative than the member he succeeds, Ellen Tauscher, who was one of the few California Democrats to join the conservative Blue Dog Caucus.

Tauscher took the seat in 1996 from a Republican and for many years the district was portrayed as one where only a conservative Democrat could beat the GOP. Garamendi's win proves the thinking wrong and actually gives a boost to reformers in the House.

The shocker. New York's special election to fill a seat held by the GOP since the civil war - a no brainer for rethugs - went to Democrat Bill Owens.
Dick Armey, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty & Club for Growth lost BIG TIME in upstate New York. In fact, they're belief that they knew better than local GOP officals in a seat that was been in Rethugs had since the civil war. That's OK. They'll be fighting another civi war from this day forward and who knows, maybe the outcome of that one will keep this seat in Demcoratic hand for the next 150 years.

Via TPM's Brian Beutler:
[...] Owens now represents a GOP-leaning district, here's what he said about the bill at a debate last week with Doug Hoffman and Dede Scozzafava: "I think moving towards this legislation is very appropriate. I think the type or the form of the public option included in this bill is reasonable. It is not one that allows people to move to the government option if they already have health insurance overage. So it's not going to control a significant segment of the population."

Chuck Todd last night:
"In NY-23, Republicans snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in a district they've controlled since the 19th century after prominent conservatives -- Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Club for Growth, Tea Party organizers -- backed the more conservative candidate (Hoffman), which eventually forced the moderate GOP nominee (Scozzafava) to withdraw from the race. That enabled the Democrat (Owens) to win, 49%-45%, with Scozzafava becoming the spoiler by getting 6%. Ponder this: Was it a better night to be a Republican running toward the middle, or a conservative running on base issues? Consider the NY 23 result and the fact that BOTH anti-tax initiatives on the ballot in Maine and Washington went down..."
MSNB's First Rea (this morning):
Ideological Civil Wars Don’t Help You Win Elections: In NY-23, Republicans snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in a district they’ve controlled since the 19th century after prominent conservatives -- Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Club for Growth, Tea Party organizers -- backed the more conservative candidate (Hoffman), which eventually forced the moderate GOP nominee (Scozzafava) to withdraw from the race. That enabled the Democrat (Owens) to win, 49%-45%, with Scozzafava becoming the spoiler by getting 6%. Ponder this: Was it a better night to be a Republican running toward the middle, or a conservative running on base issues? Consider the NY 23 result and the fact that BOTH anti-tax initiatives on the ballot in Maine and Washington went down...
As Brian Beutler points out about both these races, Yesterday's Overwhelming Historic Republican Victory Makes Democratic Health Care Reform Just A Bit Easier:

Most of the commentary about last night's elections has centered around Republican pickups in the New Jersey and Virginia statehouses. But what's gone largely unnoticed is that the two congressional seats up for grabs last night both went to Democrats, and that will have immediate ramifications for health care reform.

The NY-23 seat abdicated by Republican John McHugh (who resigned to become Secretary of the Army) went to Democrat Bill Owens--the first Democrat to hold the seat in over a century. And the CA-10 seat abdicated by Democrat Ellen Tauscher (who resigned to become Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs) went to Democrat John Garamendi.

That creates some simple arithmetic. Yesterday, Democrats had 256 voting members in the House. By week's end, they'll have 258. Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could afford to lose no more than 38 Democratic votes on a landmark health care reform bill. Next week, after Owens and Garamendi are sworn in, she can lose up to 40. For legislation this historic and far-reaching, she'll need every vote she can get--and both seem likely to support reform.

The Bad (make that really Bad): John Corzine lost to Rovian Chris Christie.

In New Jersey, a former federal prosecutor, Christopher J. Christie, became the first Republican to win statewide in 12 years by vowing to attack the state’s fiscal problems with the same aggressiveness he used to lock up corrupt politicians.

He overcame a huge Democratic voter advantage and a relentless barrage of negative commercials to defeat Jon S. Corzine, an unpopular incumbent who outspent him by more than two to one and drew heavily on political help from the White House, including three visits to the state from President Obama.

This is the one that upset me the most. I don't have much to day except this was the only race I thought mattered and Corzine lost. To a Bush appointed, marginally corrupt, US Attorney who used his office to try and sway the voters against Decmorat Bob Mendez in his race for NJ Senate in Septemeber 2006. This wasn't Christie's to win, it was Corzine's to lose and lose here did.

The Ugly: No on 1 lost. Hate was the winner in a Maine Marriage Equality nail biter.
Mainers Vote To Repeal Gay Marriage Law
Maine voters have torpedoed a state law that would have allowed gay couples to marry. With 84 percent of the precincts reporting, gay-marriage foes had 53 percent of the vote Tuesday.

The outcome amounts to a heartbreaking defeat for the gay rights movement -- particularly since it occurred in New England, the corner of the country most supportive of gay marriage.
Dejection fills ballroom after gay marriage vote:

PORTLAND, Maine – Cecelia Burnett and Ann Swanson had already set their wedding date. When they joined about 1,000 other gay marriage supporters for an election night party in a Holiday Inn ballroom, they hoped to celebrate the vote that would make it possible.

Instead, they went home at midnight, dejected and near tears after a failed bid to make Maine the first state to approve same-sex marriage at the ballot box.

"I'm ready to start crying," said Burnett, a 58-year-old massage therapist, walking out of the ballroom with Swanson at her side. "I don't understand what the fear is, why people are so afraid of this change.

"It hurts. It hurts personally," she said. "It's a personal rejection of us and our relationship, and I don't understand what the fear is."

With 87 percent of precincts reporting, gay-marriage foes had 53 percent of the vote in a referendum that asked Maine voters whether they wanted to repeal a law allowing same-sex marriage that had passed the Legislature and was signed by Democratic Gov. John Baldacci.

"The institution of marriage has been preserved in Maine and across the nation," said Frank Schubert, the chief organizer for Stand for Marriage Maine, which lobbied for the repeal.

For the gay rights movement, which has gained a foothold in New England, it was a stinging defeat. Gay marriage has now lost in every state — 31 in all — in which it has been put to a popular vote. Gay-rights activists had hoped to buck that trend in Maine, framing same-sex marriage as a matter of equality for all families in a campaign that used 8,000 volunteers to get out the message.

Five states have legalized gay marriage — Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut — but all did so through legislation or court rulings, not by popular vote.

The expected: Creigh Deeds lost Virginia, but lets keep this one in perspective.

(Bob McDonnell & Creigh Deeds)

Deeds was a terrible candidate. After he won the primary and the first polls showed him trailing McDonnell badly in the general, he decided the only way to make up that ground was to tac right. Not only was it a huge mistake, bu the already unexcited base punished him for it (by electing a right-wing, anti-gay, anti-woman, Liberty University loon):
The proof is in Virginia's turnout. Exactly a year ago, an impressively high two thirds of all eligible Virginians voted, a slim majority of whom (52 percent) swung for Obama. The number dropped by double digits this week, which by itself cripples comparisons between the two races. But where the numbers really skew are in the demographics. A year ago, young voters, who usually vote Democratic, were 20 percent of the electorate; today the number was barely half. Among people over 60, who tend to lean conservative, the number doubled from 11 to 21 percent from last year. So really, it’s not exactly the case that the same voters from last year changed their mind after taking Obama for a test drive.
In trying to figure out where Deeds went wrong, it’s a mistake not to look at Deeds himself. Even in a state lightly tinted blue and with several photo ops with a still-popular president, Deeds slipped in recent weeks. For one, he overplayed his hand on a misogynistic-sounding master’s thesis that McDonnell wrote almost 30 years ago, making it one of the central messages of his campaign, and a fairly hollow one at that. He also had several public slips, including a flip-flop on a question about taxes and an embarrassing performance at one of his big debates with McDonnell in Fairfax, Virginia. As Election Day drew closer, he waffled on how much help he wanted from Obama, wary of associating with a president who he figured undecided voters might be turning off to. When he realized he needed the help, his change of heart looked desperate, and by then the White House wasn’t exactly tripping over itself to help.

DNC Chair & Former Virigina Gov Tim Kaine: Obama More Popular Today Than He Was On Election Day '08

DNC chair Tim Kaine says last night's Democratic defeats in two big states President Obama won last year -- including Kaine's home state of Virginia -- do not mean the American people are turning on the president.

"Obama is actually more popular today than he was on Election Day last year," Kaine told CNN this morning.

Kaine broke down the results from the Democratic point of view on air. "You just need to read these as local races with local concerns," he said of New Jersey and Virginia.

The other real shocker: Mike Bloomberg's not-a-blow-out-as-expected-win over Democrat Bill Thompson:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pulled out a narrow re-election victory on Tuesday, as voters angry over his maneuver to undo the city’s term limits law and his extravagant campaign spending provided an unexpected lift to his vastly underfinanced challenger, William C. Thompson Jr.

With 99 percent of the vote counted, unofficial returns showed Mr. Bloomberg with 51 percent and Mr. Thompson with 46 percent. The result will make Mr. Bloomberg only the fourth three-term mayor in the last century.

“Conventional wisdom says historically third terms haven’t been too successful,” the mayor told supporters at the Sheraton New York Hotel in Midtown Manhattan around midnight after a tense night of watching returns. “But we’ve spent the last eight years defying conventional wisdom.”

Still, the margin seemed to startle Mr. Bloomberg’s aides and the city’s political establishment, which had predicted a blowout. Published polls in the days leading up to the election suggested that the mayor would win by as many as 18 percentage points; four years ago, he cruised to re-election with a 20 percent margin.

The billionaire mayor had poured $90 million of his own fortune into the race, a sum without equal in the history of municipal politics that gave him a 14-to-1 advantage in campaign spending.

But the turnout appeared to be on track to be among the lowest in modern New York history as the mayor’s vaunted campaign machinery failed to deliver the surge of supporters his aides had predicted.

“Everybody was shocked,” a Bloomberg aide said.


The loses in NJ & VA were not a referendum on Barack Obama no matter how many times the GOP and their media stenographer try to spin it as such..

Via MyDD (last night):
  • Per CNN, voters in Virginia did not see their state's gubernatorial race as an opportunity to voice opposition to Barack Obama. A 55 percent majority of voters said that the President was not a factor in their vote, and an additional 18 percent indicated their vote in Virginia was one of support in the President. Just 24 percent of voters indicated that their vote was one of opposition to President Obama. The numbers out of New Jersey are not terribly different, with 60 percent saying that Barack Obama played no role in their gubernatorial vote, 19 percent saying that their vote was one in support of the President, and 20 percent saying that their vote was in opposition to President Obama.

    Concludes CNN, this is not a referendum on Barack Obama.

  • Chuck Todd reports that Barack Obama's approval rating among Virginia voters stands at 51 percent (just under the 52.6 percent of the vote he received in the state last November) and 57 percent in New Jersey (almost exactly the same as the 57.1 percent of the vote he earned in that state last November). In other words, exit polling indicates President Obama has not really lost supporters over the past year.
Via Markos:

This is not a nationalized election. Democratic special election victories in early 2004 had no bearing on the beating we took that November, while a solid Republican showing in MA-05 in 2007 had no bearing on the trashing they took in November of 2008. These were not nationalized elections, and focused mostly on local issues.

Republicans will spin any gains as a repudiation of Obama, but they risk the same level of delusion that I suffered when I thought winning special elections in South Dakota and Kentucky meant anything more than "good Democratic candidates running on local issues beat shitty Republican ones."

Yes, it IS true that independents did abandon the Democrats in Virginia and Jersey, but that doesn't mean that they were doing so that csaued the loss. Democrats stayed home themselves.

MSNBC's First Read:

Obama’s Base Is No Longer Fired Up And Ready To Go: While last night wasn’t a referendum on Obama, Creigh Deeds probably wishes it was; he might have performed better. According to the exit polls, just 10% of the voters in Virginia were under the age of 30, down from 21% last year. What’s more, McDonnell won 18-29 year olds, 54%-44%. Also in Virginia yesterday, African Americans made up 16% of the vote, down from 20% last year. And then there’s this: 51% of yesterday’s voters in Virginia said they voted for McCain, while just 43% said they voted for Obama. Folks, Obama won this state last year by a nearly 53%-46% margin.

Also via Markos:

2010 will be a base election. The party best able to turn out its core voters has the best chance of winning. If Democrats want to see a repeat of Virginia at the national level next year, then they should cave to Blue Dogs and the media nabobs and water down reform efforts (whether in energy, health care, financial services, or immigration).


Think Progress has a great analysis about why not running as a progressive cost Deed VA:
Creigh Deeds Failed To Run As A Progressive

Republican Bob McDonnell won a “landslide” victory over Democrat Creigh Deeds in yesterday’s gubernatorial election in Virginia, sweeping the state by a whopping 18 points. Exit polls showed Democrats had “trouble getting their base to the polls.” One possible explanation: Deeds did not run as a progressive reformer.

McDonnell “spent much of the campaign trying to tie Deeds to cap-and-trade environmental legislation and pro-union legislation on Capitol Hill that is unpopular with many Virginia voters.” But rather than make the affirmative case for progressive policy reforms, Deeds responded by largely “distanc[ing] himself from Obama’s agenda, especially on health and energy policy.” Some key examples:


From TPM:

Finally, a very disappointing loss for marriage equality forces in Maine, but an apparent win for a civil unions law in Washington state.

Almost without any notice, Maine and Washington state both had so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) initiatives on the ballot. And both went down to defeat. That's an important barometer of right-wing, anti-spending, anti-government sentiment that should not be ignored.

Side effects of the disastrous loss in NY-23?

1) The NRSC is now terrified to support any GOP candidate in a rethug primary:
NRSC Won't Spend Money In Contested Primaries

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.

read more....
2) The fat, sweaty, addicted, hate-radio one, blames Newt Gingrich for the loss:
Limbaugh blames Newt Gingrich for screwing up the NY special election.

Yesterday, Bill Owens scored an historic victory by becoming the first Democrat in more than a century to win a congressional election in upstate New York’s 23rd district. Owens’ victory was a defeat for many prominent leaders of the conservative movement, particularly Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. In the lead-up to the election, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich had engaged in a public brouhaha with Beck over his support for Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman’s candidacy. Gingrich complained that Beck, Limbaugh, and company were pursuing “a very destructive model for the Republican Party,” and those concerns appear to have been vindicated by the outcome of Tuesday’s election. Nevertheless, Limbaugh is blaming Gingrich for the conservative’s defeat


CNN makes it quite clear, Elections were not a referendum on Obama:

Victories in New Jersey and Virginia Tuesday provided a major shot in the arm for the Republican Party heading into the 2010 elections, but the Democratic losses of these two governorships should not be interpreted as a significant blow to President Obama.

While the economy and jobs were the chief concern for voters in both states, 26 percent of New Jersey residents said property taxes was also a major issue, while another 20 percent mentioned corruption, according to CNN exit polling. In a similar CNN survey taken in Virginia, health care was the most important issue for 24 percent of the voters, while 15 percent named taxes and transportation was mentioned by 7 percent.

Further proof that this election was not solely focused on Obama, 56 percent of Virginians said that the president was not a factor when it came down to their vote. In New Jersey, that number increased to 60 percent of the people who went to the polls on Tuesday.

Perhaps this was the problem for Virginia Sen. Creigh Deeds and New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine.


CNN also had this warning for Dems who think this was as sign that running in 2010 means having to not support Obama's agenda:

The inclination by some Democrats seeking reelection next year might be to run away from Obama and chart an independent path believing that he was at least partially to blame for the defeats of Corzine and Deeds. But Democratic strategists and activists caution that this is the wrong decision to make. In order to win in 2010, these Democrats said candidates need to embrace the president and embrace his policy goals.

"You want to run as somebody who is supporting the Obama agenda, with an exception here or there, instead of being disdainful," said Steve Murphy, a consultant who works with conservative Democratic incumbents and challengers.

Jane Hamsher, founder of the liberal political blog firedoglake, noted that it is freshmen and sophomore Democrats who won by narrow margins in 2006 and 2008, who "are scared" of losing their seats in 2010.

"I would suggest that appealing to Republican interests is not the best way to turn out Democrats," Hamsher said. "It is just a fact of life. They have to turn out Democrats."

Just like Markos has a warning via his explaination that the loses were a "base problem" and not an Obama one:

Tonight proved conclusively that we're not going to turn out just because you have a (D) next to your name, or because Obama tells us to. We'll turn out if we feel it's worth our time and effort to vote, and we'll work hard to make sure others turn out if you inspire us with bold and decisive action.

The choice is yours. Give us a reason to vote for you, or we sit home. And you aren't going to make up the margins with conservative voters. They already know exactly who they're voting for, and it ain't you.

Being more like Rethugs is why we lost the House & Senate for 12 years. Being proud, porogressive democrats is what won 2006 & 2008.

Creigh Deeds forgot that in VA, but CA-10's John Garamendi, did not.

And, while John Corzine knew this , there was nothing he coould really say or do to make people forget that they didnt like him for the past 18 months.

Armey throws Hoffman under the bus: ‘He didn’t pay enough attention to the local concerns.’

In the run-up to Tuesday’s special election in New York’s 23rd congressional district, Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman met with the editorial board of the Watertown Daily Times, the largest paper in the district. After Hoffman “showed no grasp of the bread-and-butter issues pertinent to district residents,” his companion in the meeting, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, rose to his defense by dismissing regional concerns as “parochial” issues that would not determine the outcome of the election. Armey’s comment was a major factor in the paper offering a “flat-out blistering” critique of Hoffman when it endorsed Democrat Bill Owens. Now, Armey is throwing Hoffman under the bus, saying that “he didn’t pay enough attention to local concerns”:

read the quote....
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