Posted by: Nate Nelson | November 2, 2009

Conservative Resurgence: Dem Disaster in 2010?

If Tom Jensen (Public Policy Polling) is right, President Obama and his Democratic Party could be in for a rude awakening once the ballots are counted tomorrow.

PPP’s data shows that Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman has taken the lead in the NY-23 special election, leading Democrat Bill Owens by at least 16 points. Of course there are a lot of caveats that can be thrown in here. Because of the volatility of this race, it’s hard to tell if any of the polling data can be trusted at this point. And even if these numbers are accurate, this is a Republican district where Democrats were always likely fighting an uphill battle. If this race is lost, Democrats will argue that it doesn’t necessarily indicate Democratic disaster next year.

This assessment about NY-23 might be right. But there are two other races that, if PPP’s numbers turn out to be accurate, could be an indicator for Democrats that they are headed toward another 1994.

In New Jersey — unquestionably a blue state — Republican challenger Chris Christie is leading incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine by six points. Christie is exciting his Republican base and attracting independents, a huge problem for an embattled Corzine who is facing a serious enthusiasm gap among his fellow Democrats. PPP’s numbers also show that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, independent candidate Chris Daggett may be doing more damage to Corzine than to Christie. It seems that Chris Christie has the momentum here and that he may well take the New Jersey governorship.

There’s more troubling news for Democrats in the purple state of Virginia, where Republican Bob McDonnell holds a commanding 14 point lead over Democrat Creigh Deeds. But this isn’t just good news for McDonnell or bad news for Deeds; it looks as though McDonnell may be poised to lead the Virginia GOP into a victory sweep tomorrow. If PPP’s numbers are right, Republican candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general will be joining McDonnell’s victory party tomorrow, and Republicans hold a nine point lead on the generic House of Delegates match-up.

There are several noteworthy points to be discussed here.

First, if Republicans win these races they will be winning as conservatives rather than moderates. This is significant, because the conventional wisdom has been that the Republican Party needs to moderate if it ever again hopes to attract voters. Yet Hoffman, Christie, and McDonnell are all red-blooded conservatives and “moderate” Republican Dierdre Scozzafava was forced out of the NY-23 race. You see, she couldn’t raise enough money. Even with the support of the Republican establishment, Scozzafava’s moderation was such a turn-off to NY-23 voters that she ended up in third place. Maybe that’s because she was running to the left of both Hoffman and Democrat Bill Owens.

If Republicans win any of these races, but especially if Hoffman wins NY-23, look for conservative activists and a few very prominent conservative Republicans to insist that Republicans can only win if they stick to their guns. And look for Sarah Palin to become the grassroots favorite for 2012.

But the other much more significant point to be made here is what Republican victories in these races will mean for the Democratic Party. Although many Dems will dispute this, a bad Tuesday could certainly indicate that they’re headed for another Republican uprising akin to the historic GOP victory in the 1994 midterm elections. I’ll let Wikipedia do the talking here:

Discontent against the Democrats was foreshadowed by a string of elections after 1992, including the capture of the mayoralities of New York and Los Angeles by the Republicans in 1993. In that same year, Christine Todd Whitman captured the New Jersey governorship from the Democrats and Bret Schundler became the mayor of overwhelmingly Democratic Jersey City. . . .

The emphasis is my own. All of these races are significant, but some should matter to Democrats more than others. While a Hoffman victory in NY-23 will unquestionably energize conservatives, as I’ve already noted it doesn’t necessarily spell Democratic doom. A GOP sweep of Virginia is more serious, but while Virginia decisively went for Obama in 2008 it is still a purple state where Democratic victories are far from certain.

Although Corzine’s unpopularity in New Jersey is very much his own doing, the loss of the New Jersey governorship would probably be the most serious warning that voters could send to Democrats tomorrow. If Corzine is ousted, it will be a sign that President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid need to take 2010 very seriously.



  1. Thanks for your comment on my post on the NY cong race. I have read your post on the NJ race–very interesting. I see your point in your comment, esp. concerning the back room appt (that bothers me too). More generally though, I think it is a mistake for evangelicals in the repub party to use social issues to exclude republicans. If anything, a limited government/individual liberty party should be for choice. I think the party has been subverted. I do believe that the social issues were a factor in NY (though I agree with you that there is more to that story–ok, point taken lol). Basically, the party new-comers since 1980 are subverting the party into positions antipodal to the more general philosphy of the party. I’m amazed it is happening at all. This is what I was trying to get at.

    • We’re pretty much in agreement on what you said in this comment. I think there should be room for pro-choice and pro-life people in both parties, because I think having a robust debate not only between but within the two parties is the best way for Americans to reach common ground consensus on the contentious issue of abortion. Unfortunately, the Republican Party tends to systematically exclude pro-choicers and the Democratic Party tends to do the same, maybe to a somewhat lesser degree, with pro-lifers.

      Personally, I’m neither pro-life nor pro-choice. I agree in principle that women should have the right to choose whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term, but I also agree with a number of pro-life ideas like parental notification/consent, late term abortion bans, conscience protection, etc. For these ideas I would not be welcome either among social conservatives or social liberals — I’m not pro-life enough for the former and not pro-choice enough for the latter. I’m fine with that.

      So I agree with you. I don’t think it’s fair to call some who might be pro-choice or who favor same-sex marriage “RINOs” and exclude them from the GOP. What if that same person is for free trade, deficit reduction, low taxation, limited government, and a strong national defense? How is that person a RINO? On the other hand, it has to be conceded that while there are pro-life Democrats they are often institutionally marginalized and sometimes made the target of what I call “primaries of attrition.” Both parties encourage extremism on social issues while a majority of Americans are somewhere in the middle on a lot of these issues.

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