A year ago today, we were told that the GOP was leaderless and dead. Back then and ever since, folks like myself have tried to explain that, with principles, figureheads are unnecessary. A year ago today, we were told that America was no longer a center-right nation, that Barack Obama had opened minds and conservatism was dwindling from sea to shining sea.
Last night, however, we saw just the opposite. We saw ordinary people pushing back. We saw the conservative promise of lower taxes and less government win the day. A year ago today, television know-it-alls were claiming that Virginia was forever lost to the Democrats, but last night Republican Bob McDonnell blew the doors off Creigh Deeds, his challenger from across the aisle. A year ago today, we heard the same ole’ warnings about New Jersey that after a 16-point win for Barack Obama, prospective Republican candidates might as well move, but tonight we saw Chris Christie vanquish incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine, even with a heavy presidential presence in the Garden State.
There was, of course, an unfortunate result for conservatives in upstate New York as Democrat Bill Owens prevailed over Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman for a congressional seat, a result which the mainstream press will undoubtedly beat to death in coming days. In a moment, I’ll explain why this may be a blessing in disguise. First, though, consider the gubernatorial races one-by-one, and then consider what they mean.
Over the past week, President Barack Obama has been doing his best Bruce Springsteen impression, returning to the Garden State to bask in the glory of his sweeping 16-point victory in the 2008 presidential election. Oh yeah, and to help Jon Corzine retain the governor’s seat.
Appearing at five different events on three different days, the president took a large amount of time away from his full-time gig redistributing wealth and destroying every shred of American exceptionalism in order to stump for Corzine. Campaign signs floating around the state actually featured his name next to the incumbent governor’s. Christie wasn’t just fighting Jon Corzine and the Corzine-funded third-party candidate, he was fighting Barack Obama, Jon Corzine, and the Corzine-funded third party candidate.
But it didn’t matter. Obama was unable to work the magic which brought him a 57 to 41 percent victory over Arizona Sen. John McCain a year ago. Even the youth vote, so dedicated to the Illinois Wonder in 2008, were uninspired by Obama’s presence. According to Fox News exit polling data, younger voters comprised only nine percent of those who turned out, and even those voters went 36 percent to Christie. The youth have always been an underperforming demographic – until last year. How reconciling this year’s turnout with last year’s impacts the 2012 election, however, has me a little unsure. On one hand, part of me believes that Obama being Obama and the youth being their typical, naïve selves, they’ll come out for the president anyway; on the other hand, however, I wonder if the bloom is indeed off the rose, if the youth love has been unrequited, and if it simply will not be as “trendy” to cast a vote for The One in three years’ time.
Independents comprised 28 percent of all voters, according to the exit polling data, and despite what the mainstream press will tell you today, Christie received 60 percent of the independent vote to Corzine’s 30 percent. The most prevalent concern in the Garden State was, interestingly enough, “change,” which ranked as the top worry for 39 percent of all voters; those concerned most about “change,” furthermore, went to Christie at 67 percent to Corzine’s 26 percent. Also, blacks comprised 14 percent of all voters in New Jersey, with a whopping 88 percent of the black vote going to Democrat Jon Corzine.
The final tally in the Garden State was Christie winning with 48 percent, Corzine next at 44 percent, and so-called independent Chris Daggett earning five percent. The four-point win means that, in the one year since President Obama was elected, the electorate in New Jersey has shifted by 20 points in the right direction.
With the possible exception of the nature of President Barack Obama’s involvement in Virginia (he seemed to be begrudgingly campaigning for Democrat Creigh Deeds, and the feeling seemed mutual from Deeds), and the extent of the victory by Republican Bob McDonnell, the exit polling data from Virginia mirrors that from New Jersey.
To Virginians, the most important issues by far were taxes and the economy, even though 56 percent of those polled said that Barack Obama was not a factor in their vote. I don’t buy it, though. Independents made up 30 percent of all voters, and went to McDonnell by a two-to-one factor. And, almost exactly like we saw in New Jersey, blacks comprised 16 percent of all voters, and went resoundingly–90 percent–to the Democrat.
The final tally in Virginia was a landslide, with McDonnell garnering 58 percent of the vote to Deeds’ 41 percent, a result made even more incredible considering that only four years ago the pair went head-to-head for the attorney general seat and the race was nearly a tie. Considering the margin by which Barack Obama won Virginia, we’ve seen a more than 25 percent swing in the mood of the electorate in that state.
McDonnell … Christie … What Does it Mean?
Last night was an absolutely enormous victory for Republicans and right-thinking Americans from coast to coast, not just those limited to the two states. Especially fantastic was the result in New Jersey, considered untouchable for Republicans by so many.
In terms of what this result means for the mid-term elections in one year and the presidential election three years from now, by far the most telling statistic is the migration of independents. Americans were supposed to be wooed by Barack Obama’s charm, by his effectiveness in bringing people together, in fostering an era of post-partisanship and post-racialism in America. Instead, independents are seeing a president and Congress which has exponentially expanded the size, scope and role of government, and are pushing back. Both Chris Christie in New Jersey and Bob McDonnell in Virginia ran predominantly on fiscal issues, Christie focusing on taxes and McDonnell focusing on jobs and the economy. Both contests were a victory for conservative and libertarian ideals, for the idea that government has a certain, limited role in our society, and that the current regime on Capitol Hill has overstepped that limit time and time again.
The Democrats should be extremely concerned for the mid-terms next year. And not just the far left Democrats, either. Blue Dogs should seriously consider the possible ramifications if they vote in favor of health care reform or cap-and-trade. After all, Creigh Deeds was hardly a far-left Democrat, but what you saw in Virginia—and to a certain extent in New Jersey as well—was an election which went beyond an individual candidate, which went beyond local issues, and showed a genuine, broad-spectrum discontent manifesting itself where possible.
The one concern for me, considering the exit polling numbers from the two states, is the black vote. Both states saw less African-Americans at the polls, and both saw those who voted go resoundingly for Democrats. I worry that, considering how much work conservatives still have to do in connecting with black voters, Barack Obama will be able to rally African-Americans in 2012 for his re-election bid. But I’m certainly not an expert on such things, so I asked Kevin Jackson, author of The Big Black Lie and founder of The Black Sphere, for a little input. His response came before exit polling data became available.
“It’s tough to predict the fallout [for 2012], since I need to know how many blacks voted” said Jackson, who will appear on the Glenn Beck television program on Friday from his current tea party tour. “If Corzine received Obama 2008 numbers, then there is something to consider. However, if he got much smaller numbers—my prediction—and lost five percent of the black vote, then I believe you are seeing the beginning of ‘black flight’ from the Democratic Party. I would expect this will continue to rise as much as an additional ten percent by 2010, and certainly by 2012 if things continue as they are.
With regard to why so many blacks continue to cast their votes for Democrats, when it is the Democratic Party which has tanked places like Newark and Camden in New Jersey, and the likes of Philadelphia, Cleveland and Detroit to the west, Jackson said that the answer was simple: ignorance.
“Conservatives must be more ‘in your face’ in addressing race,” Jackson told me, saying that he intends to put up billboards in Missouri black communities which blame Democrats for essentially turning St. Louis public schools into San Quentin preparatory schools. “Until Republicans start making blacks think, it will be a slow trickle from the dark side.”
Regardless, last night was a major defeat for the White House and for the Democratic Party, a defeat which will undoubtedly be glossed over by the mainstream press in exchange for more spinnable news. Which brings me to New York’s 23rd Congressional District.
If there is any race which can be spun in any direction, it is this one. A seat traditionally in the hands of a moderate Republican is vacated when the president appoints that Republican to a bigger position on Capitol Hill. A Democrat runs, joined by a liberal Republican who ran unopposed through the primary process. Later in the game, an out-of-district conservative candidate joins the fray. Hilarity ensues, and within hours of the election, the liberal Republican drops out, endorses the liberal Democrat, and establishment Republicans finally put half-hearted support behind the conservative.
You couldn’t make this stuff up, folks. And what resulted was a uniquely spinnable race, regardless of result.
As it turns out, the conservative third-party candidate lost to the Democrat. Inevitably, the media will spin this as a life lesson for the GOP, a referendum on whether conservatives and the tea party movement will be able to elect someone, a sign that the tea partiers and conservatives on the right are pushing independents away from the GOP. Clearly, as we’ve seen in both the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races, this is not so.
What has happened, my friends, is that we have been given a lesson about the viability of a third-party candidate. Sure, Doug Hoffman doesn’t live in the district. Sure, he wasn’t a seasoned, experienced candidate. But if Dede Scozzafava had been opposed by a conservative in a primary, she would likely not have been on the ballot to begin with yesterday, and a conservative Republican would likely have prevailed, especially considering that adding Scozzafava’s votes to Hoffman’s would have been enough to vanquish Owens, the Democrat.
All in all, though, this was an enormous night for folks like you and like me. It told us that we are certainly not alone. It told us that the expansion of government has its consequences. And with regard to the third party issue, it told us that we shouldn’t toss the baby with the bathwater, that a fire engine racing toward a conflagration should change its flat tire rather than build a new vehicle from scratch.
Last night was a night for lessons. We’ve learned ours. And I can guarantee that the Democrats, sure to go ahead with a House vote on health care reform on Friday, certainly have not learned theirs. In fact, for the sake of 2010, I’m banking on it.