Before the votes are even counted on Election Day November 2009, analysts are debating the meaning of this year’s elections.
At stake are governor’s races in New Jersey and Virginia and a congressional seat in upstate New York’s 23rd district. The key issue: Without Barack Obama on the ticket to energize Democrats, what kinds of gains can Republicans post?
In Virginia, Republican candidate Bob McDonnell appears to be well ahead of Democrat Creigh Deeds. In New Jersey, Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine looks to be in a dead heat with GOP nominee Chris Christie. And in upstate New York, the Republican candidate dropped out over the weekend, leaving Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman showing a narrow lead over Democrat Bill Owens.
Dollars and candidates follow victories
What would a strong Republican showing mean? At a Monitor-sponsored breakfast for reporters Monday, Republican pollster Bill McInturff, a partner in the firm Public Opinion Strategies, said a strong showing would have “an enormous bearing on candidate recruitment and money, and I wouldn’t underestimate what it means.”
Mr. McInturff, who served as John McCain’s pollster in the 2008 election, noted that when Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 1994 by picking up 54 seats, the gains were preceded by “a surge of quality candidates who decided to get into that race.”
Chilling the Blue Dogs
According to McInturff, a strong Republican showing in the 2009 elections could “increase the playing field by having a different generation of candidates” running on the Republican ticket in 2010. He argues that a Republican sweep also would be “chilling” for so-called Blue Dog Democrats, conservative members of President Obama’s party who often hail from Southern states.
Not surprisingly, Democratic pollster Mark Mellman of the Mellman Group downplayed the practical impact of multiple Democratic losses on Tuesday. He told breakfast attendees that, “The reality is that 2009 says almost nothing about 2010. It says a lot about 2009.”
A recession is a “horrible time to be a governor,” Mr. Mellman said. “The truth is that if the congressional elections were in 2009, Democrats would be in pretty deep trouble. The good news is that [they are] not in 2009.”
Depression and soul-searching
But a Republican sweep would be difficult for his party on a psychological basis, Mellman acknowledged. “I think there is going to be a certain amount of depression and soul searching,” he said, with the press engaging in what he called “overbroad generalizations ... about what happened.”
Mellman currently is advising Senate majority leader Harry Reid in his reelection bid for 2010. The veteran Democratic pollster said, “The core conclusion Democrats are going to reach after a period of introspection and self-flagellation which always follows such elections is that we need to get things done that are important for the country.”