Lessons to learn from this week's elections

We all saw the same election results this week, but we didn’t all hear the same message from the voters.

After the jump I’ve posted some different interpretations of Tuesday’s events, along with my own short take.

Iowa local elections

Jason Hancock of Iowa Independent: Iowa voters were in an anti-incumbent mood, and several mayors paid the price.

The conservative blog Hawkeye Review on Republican Ron Corbett’s victory in the Cedar Rapids mayoral race:

Now that Corbett is in office, he will immediately expose the bureaucratic flaws and demand results and accountability.  No longer will Culver have former state representative and current Mayor Kay Halloran (Chapman) to protect him on his tours to our flood devastated neighborhoods.

Corbett should be credited for running a race that was inclusive and in large measure, united Republicans, Democrats and Independents along with white collar, blue collar and labor. With this dominant victory, Corbett wields the bully pulpit and a “mandate” from our community to enact his agenda to effect “action and results” from local government. […]

My final note to Republicans today:  Be humble.  It’s time to lead and demonstrate through governance that our party is trustworthy of the support we were just given.  

Todd Dorman of the Cedar Rapids Gazette: Corbett’s victory is good for business leaders, unions and flood recovery victims. Now he has to deliver on his promises (ending the “culture of delay,” buying local, speeding up flood recovery). Corbett would be a good gubernatorial candidate in 2014 if Branstad doesn’t win next year.

Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial elections

Most Democratic bloggers took away similar lessons from these races. Charles Lemos:

In Virginia, Republican Bob McDonnell bested Democrat Creigh Deeds in a landslide 59 percent to 41 percent. McDonnell ran on jobs platform, largely avoiding divisive social issues and concentrating instead on his plans to improve the economy and fix the state’s transportation problems. There will be numbers to crunch tomorrow but turnout was lower in key Democratic demographics.

In New Jersey, the election was, in essence, a referendum on Governor Corzine. His failure to gain control over skyrocketing property taxes, the nation’s highest, sent him to defeat. His unpopularity was persistent in the polls and yet he was able to close the gap running neck and neck until the end. Independents swung towards the Republican, Chris Christie. Coupled again with a Democratic base that stayed home – only 39% of registered voters in heavily Democratic Hudson county voted, Corzine went down to defeat by five points, 49 percent to 45 percent. I noted this earlier in the threads but Corzine is now available to become Secretary of the Treasury. Dump Geithner and replace him with Corzine, who is not only more experienced but an actual progressive. A Corzine appointment at Treasury would change the dynamics of the department after over eight years of lightweights in the post.

Mike Lux:

In the face of a weak economy, angry voters, and a discouraged Democratic base, Democrats have exactly one chance at surviving the elections a year from now: deliver the goods.

You ran on change in 2008, and voters don’t feel like things have changed enough. You ran on taking on the powerful special interests and they still have too much power. You can’t afford to get even more cautious, to change things even less, to take on the powerful not so much. We need health care reform that checks the power of the big insurers, and banking policy that ends the overwhelming power of the big banks. We need to produce good jobs now, and not wait for the trickle down policy of waiting for the banks to someday lend to business which will someday hire workers.

Fortunately for us Democrats, the Republicans will continue to hand us some gifts like NY-23. They are moving far enough to the right that we will get lucky in some elections we wouldn’t otherwise win, and God bless them for it. But that won’t happen often enough. We are going to need to craft a strategy for winning that is based on deserving to win because we delivered important, tangible things that mattered to voters, things that make angry voters understand that we share their anger and are doing something to change things so their lives will be better, and things that help Democratic base voters feel like it is worth voting again. Now is the time for Democrats to stop listening to the whiners who counsel go slow and be cautious on change, and to deliver on the change they so boldly promised.  

Chris Bowers:

When you are highly engaged in political news and activism, there is a tendency to overestimate the importance of winning the messaging war.  However, there probably isn’t a single American who will vote in 2010 based on how well one side or the other messaged after the 2009 elections.  The post-election spin is distant, abstract horse pockey compared to the job market, the health care market, the housing market, and other very real economic problems people are facing in their everyday lives.

[…] Democratic performance in the 2010 elections will be based on whether Democrats “deliver the goods,” aka, the economic improvements they were hired to produce.  If economic conditions still suck in 2010, then Democrats are toast no matter what sort of spin or other abstract positioning in which we engage.

Markos Moulitsas:

There will be much number-crunching tomorrow, but preliminary numbers (at least in Virginia) show that GOP turnout remained the same as last year, but Democratic turnout collapsed. This is a base problem […]

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.

Craig Robinson of The Iowa Republican: Support from independent voters was crucial for Republicans Bob O’Donnell and Chris Christie. But also,

The two gubernatorial victories are huge victories for the Republican Governors Association. The victories also pad the stellar political resume of Governor Haley Barbour, the Chairman of the RGA. It also should allow to the RGA to post good fundraising numbers from now until next November.

A well funded RGA could also have an impact here in Iowa. It is critical for our Republican gubernatorial nominee to have RGA actively involved in the gubernatorial race in 2010. In the last gubernatorial campaign, the RGA contributed $1.4 million to help elect Jim Nussle. Without those types of investments in our gubernatorial candidate, it will be difficult to defeat Culver.

Democratic Governors’ Association: incumbents should keep next year’s races local.

Nathan Daschle, executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, told reporters the 37 races they have on the map next year will be tough. He advised that candidates talk about jobs, the party’s ability to govern and local issues.

“Republicans are going to try to use federal issues to box in Democrats and we can’t fall for that,” he said. “We need to demonstrate our capacity to govern and our capacity to get results.”

Daschle said candidates “cannot fall for the trap” of federal issues, saying that if GOP rivals are pushing on health care or climate change they probably don’t know about state issues.

Maine referendum on same-sex marriage rights

Conservative blogger Polly Twocents: Voters will reject gay marriage at every opportunity. Iowans should have the chance to do the same.

Craig Robinson: Governor Chet Culver, House Speaker Pat Murphy and Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal will pay a political price next year if they block a popular vote on same-sex marriage rights. But Maine voters didn’t approve every conservative ballot initiative:

What is fascinating about the vote is that while a majority of voters supported the repeal of the state’s gay marriage law, they overwhelmingly voted down a taxpayer’s bill of rights, which over 60% opposed, and a decrease in the automobile excise tax that only mustered the support of 26% of the electorate.

(I would also add that Mainers voted to expand access to medical marijuana on Tuesday.)

Gay progressive blogger Bill in Portland Maine is optimistic about the future in light of young voters’ overwhelming support for marriage equality. But he is realistic about current attitudes toward gay marriage:

No minds were changed here over the course of the last five months. If the ‘No’ campaign had been tougher and the ‘Yes’ campaign had been softer, the result would’ve been the same. And that is to say: dead wrong. But we are a country that is dead wrong about a lot of things, especially on social issues. We love our comfort zones. We love the status quo. We love saying that all people are created equal, but not actually treating them equal. Things is good enough the way they is. That’s a tough nut to crack.

To many in this state, we have just insulated ourselves against having to see two dudes in wedding dresses charge down the aisle of their local church singing, “Here Comes the Bride” and then racing to the local kindergarten to continue the gay recruiting process. (Gotta indoctrinate ’em while they’re young, y’know—we learned that by watching organized religion.) They have just voted to avoid something icky. You can pick apart the campaign strategies and tactics seven ways to Sunday, but you’ll always come back to that fact: fifty three percent of voters didn’t vote ‘Yes.’ They voted ‘Ick.’

New York’s 23rd Congressional district

DailyKosTV’s Jed Lewison put together a montage “showing how Fox’s coverage of the special election in New York’s 23rd Congressional District empowered Republican teabaggers to push aside moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava in favor of a hard-line conservative candidate Doug Hoffman, allowing the first Democratic victory in the district since the Civil War.”

Charles Lemos:

The battle for the NY-23 had been billed as one for the GOP’s soul. Tea Party conservatives see themselves as the base of the GOP when really they are just a fringe, and a lunatic fringe at that. But what matters in this case is their own perception of the situation. They are, I think, only more embolden to take on the GOP establishment who is frankly spineless, cowering in fear and out of ideas anyway. I suspect that the battle of the GOP’s soul will continue. Still whoever wins that contest wins a shell of a prize. As an aside, the [Charlie] Crist versus [Marco] Rubio contest down in Florida for the US Senate seat now looks it will provide much fodder for the press and entertainment for us.

Conservative blogger Jon Henke, who worked with the Hoffman campaign:

The bottom line on NY-23:

   * Doug Hoffman just won the Republican Primary. The general election is next year.

   * There are two broken, corrupt, arrogant political parties we need to defeat.  We beat the Republican establishment in 2009.  We’ll beat the Democratic Party in 2010.

   * NY-23 is not really about Conservatives VS Moderates.  It is about the Establishment VS the Movement.

Krusty Konservative:

Those 11 county leaders who voted for [moderate Republican Dede] Scozzafava to be their candidate should be run out of town. What the hell were they thinking? Additionally, the political staff at the NRCC should be embarrassed and lose their jobs for wasting almost a million bucks on Scozzafava’s campaign. […]

What failed was the lack of leadership and foresight by the 11 county leaders who selected Scozzafava.

What failed was the inability of the NRCC and RNC to step in and make sure the best candidate was nominated to run in that district.

What failed was that, even after Scozzafava was selected, the Republican Party apparatus shrugged its shoulders and dumped hundreds-of-thousands of dollars into the Scozzafava’s race merely because she was a Republican, not because she believes in Republican principles.

We need strong conservative candidates like Doug Hoffman to run as Republicans. Hoffmann had no other choice than to run as a third party candidate. […]

Republicans enjoyed wide-spread support from independent voters last night. Republicans would be wise to recruit candidates like Hoffman to run for seats all across the county. The race in NY 23 wasn’t lost by Hoffman last night. Republicans lost it when they nominated Scozzafava. I hope Hoffman runs again next fall as a Republican.

Over at Swing State Project, Democratic blogger Crisitunity shares Krusty’s wish:

In NY-23, we lost, apparently because the conservatives won, because in their brave new world winning no longer means earning more votes than the other candidates, but rather defeating the candidate that will vote with you most of the time in order to pave the way for the candidate who would theoretically vote with you all the time but has no chance of getting elected in your swing district. I quake in fear of next November, when conservatives will enjoy the mightiest of all glorious historic victories, with the crushing general election losses of Marco Rubio, Chuck DeVore, Rand Paul, Ovide Lamontagne, Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Peter Schiff, Chuck Purgason, Ken Buck, and Patrick Hughes, thus purifying the soil for decades to come.

Fun exchange in this comment thread at The Iowa Republican:

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Moderation in Everything wrote on 4 November, 2009, 7:31

The big news is NY HD-23. Good job out of the crackpot conservatives that turned a solid Republican district democratic. Palin and her freakshow need to be shuttered. A lesson to all of you supporters of BVP and his band of incompetent goofs. Get of of Dodge and let the big boys run the show.

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Craig Robinson wrote on 4 November, 2009, 7:41

MIE. The crackpots are the 11 Republican chairs that selected DeDe. Had Hoffman been the Republican nominee I’m confident that he would have won last night. Glad to see you got your DNC talking points early this morning!

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Moderation in Everything wrote on 4 November, 2009, 7:54

Wrong Craig. No DNC talking points. Remove your blinders and looked what happened in Iowa HD 90. Crackpots wreck the show. By the way, your dissing of Branstad on Deace was pathetic. […]

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Moderation in Everything wrote on 4 November, 2009, 9:39

Wrong Hawk: Leave the locals to figure it out. NYHD-23 was a moderate district. Still the luddites decided to make it the fault line for the moderate/extremist wars. The nut****s lost. Lesson learned. Deace, Rush et al. should be chagrined. Moreover, it was a great day for moderates. McDonnell won by staying away from the hot button culture war issues. NJ’s Christie is a moderate. Ron Corbett is the paragon of a moderate problem solving conservative. All of this points to a rejection of ideology and orthodoxy as the road to victory. Moderation in Everything!!!!

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HawkCR1 wrote on 4 November, 2009, 9:42

LOL.. So..you’re saying to be a “moderate”..you should be pro-ACORN, pro card check, pro stimulus, pro-Obamacare and pro-abortion?

If thats the case..I hate to see what you consider liberal….

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Moderation in Everything wrote on 4 November, 2009, 9:46

Hey Hawk: Maybe you didn’t notice. The crackpot lost. The dem won.

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HawkCR1 wrote on 4 November, 2009, 9:53

So..its “crackpot” to be for lower taxes, against government run health care…against growing government?? Hoffman was no “crackpot”…far from it. Scozzafava on the other hand was no Republican…far from it.

The biggest thing that Hofffman had going against him was that he didn’t live in the district..and even so..he came within 4 points of beating Owens, a lifetime resident of that district.. Considering a month ago, no one had heard of the guy…to come that far, that quickly…is a testament in of itself.

I wouldn’t be shocked at all if Hoffman challenges Owens for 2010…and wins…

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Moderation in Everything wrote on 4 November, 2009, 10:10

Hey Hawk: The crackpot element came from the Palin/Beck/Limbaugh cabal making the race a test case. The test case blew up in their faces. Hooray!!!

My short take: It’s not surprising that a severe recession will cost some mayors and governors their jobs. Even New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who spent more than $100 million on his re-election campaign, won by a surprisingly narrow margin.

My hunch is that Corbett won’t find it easy to keep his campaign promises, but if he delivers big for Cedar Rapids residents, he’ll be an important GOP surrogate in next year’s gubernatorial campaign.

Iowa’s Democratic incumbents, including Culver, should be worried about a disaffected base next year. Excessive caution and backing away from core Democratic positions could depress turnout. Corzine’s approval numbers were much worse than Culver’s, but he might have survived if key demographic groups had shown up to vote in larger numbers.

The Democratic Governors’ Association advice makes sense on one level, but running on local issues can be a bit tricky when your state is mired in a recession.

The NY-23 result shocked me, but it’s even more incredible that so many Republicans still don’t understand the concept of “good fit for the district.” They cannot tolerate moderates anywhere, even in New York State. This attitude won’t help their cause in eastern Iowa, although the weak economy could be wind at the GOP’s back.

The Maine vote against marriage equality was the most depressing news of the week for me. I don’t have any answers, except to say that minority rights should not be subject to a majority vote. If every state had held a referendum on interracial marriage four decades ago, I have no doubt American voters would have banned it everywhere.

I look forward to hearing from other Bleeding Heartland readers in the comments.

  • Lesson one from any election...

    If voting could actually change anything, it wouldn’t be legal.

    • voting changed something in Maine

      Now a bunch of people won’t be able to get married.

      Ditto for California.

      But in Washington State, voters affirmed the domestic partnership law, so that will help a lot of people there.

  • What ever happened

    To personal responsibility?  

    As some do, touting voting as the only “responsible” way to engage as an effective agent of social change creates, IMHO a total disconnect with reality.

    That’s all I’m saying, besides being my usual smart-ass self.

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