Next Week We'll Know More
There are four major elections coming up next week as the "off year" cycle mercifully winds it way toward a conclusion. (If you share my misfortune of living in a media market with an election, you're probably as sick of polictical ads as I am, and I doubt if any of us "normal" people approve those messages.) The reasons these elections are so important goes far beyond a couple of governorships and a couple of House seats. Here's why:
1) Off year elections can be a harbinger of change. The GOP's success in 1993 proved to be prophetic as the Contract with America swept the Republicans into power in 1994. Conversely the Dems' success in 2006 was the herald of bigger things to come in last year's cycle. If the Democrats lose the governorships (VA and NJ), both currently held by Democrats, it will go a long way to answering those who suggest the Republicans are in permanent retreat. Polls suggest a squeaker in NJ (and it's never a good idea to get involved in a close race with the Dems in a state like that) and a GOP blowout in Virginia. President Obama carried both states...so it's at least something of a test for the transferability of his aura as well.
2) The NY-23 House race is a fascinating case study. It revealed the gaping fault lines within the Republican Party. It's a test of the power of the Internet, Sarah Palin, the GOP establishment and the Democrats ability to take a GOP seat when the other party is divided. I frankly have no idea what's going to happen. If Democrat Bill Owens wins, the GOP may well be looking at a civil war. Each side will blame the other for the loss. Can that particular Humpty be reassembled? Don't know. If the RINO wins, business as usual will have prevailed and disheartened conservatives will mutter again about being ignored and taken for granted. If Hoffman pulls off the improbable upset, Palin's stock will soar. The only possible path to the White House for her is to build a power base across the country during the 2010 elections, and this is an early test of the strategy. She doesn't have to have Hoffman win, but it would sure help.
3) The CA-10 race has gotten almost no attention. The district is D+11 or D+18 depending whose numbers you use, and the Democratics are running the Lt. Governor of California. The only question here is the depth of discontent California voters might be feeling with the malaise of the economy and their state's crushing deficits. Electing one of the chief architects of higher spending and taxes is like steers voting for meatpackers...yet the people of California continue to do so. If there's going to truly be a full-scale "throw the rascals out" election next year, a GOP upset here might be an early sign.
If there's an election where you are, vote. It is both your privilege and your duty to do so.