There'll be gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey Nov. 3.
Supporters of the winners will declare these were referenda on President
Obama. The losers will say the races were decided by local factors.
But if Republicans win both, skittish Democrats (84 in the House
represent districts that were carried be either George W. Bush in 2004
or John McCain in 2008) might conclude bucking public opinion on health
care could be political suicide.
In Virginia, Republican Bob McDonnell has a comfortable lead (8.8
percentage points in the RealClear Politics average of polls) over
Democrat Creigh Deeds. In New Jersey, Republican Chris Christie leads
incumbent Democratic governor Jon Corzine by less than a percentage
point in the RCP average.
Since New Jersey is a heavily Democratic state, and Virginia a swing
state, it stands to reason the GOP candidate should be doing better in
the Old Dominion. In addition, Gov. Corzine has outspent Mr. Christie
4-1, while Mr. McDonnell has enjoyed a fund-raising edge over Mr. Deeds.
The peculiar thing is that a smaller proportion of the electorate in New
Jersey supports Gov. Corzine (39.8 percent in the RCP average) than the
electorate in Virginia supports Mr. Deeds (42.5 percent in the RCP
average). The race is a dead heat because in New Jersey there is a
third candidate, independent Chris Daggett. He had 13.6 percent in the
Mr. Daggett is a de facto ally of Mr. Corzine. Mr. Daggett can't
possibly win, but he could take enough votes from Mr. Christie to
re-elect the deeply unpopular governor.
Some suspect Mr. Daggett, a moderate Republican who voted for Barack
Obama last year, was recruited for this purpose. But the fault is
chiefly Mr. Christie's. He's permitted Mr. Daggett to run to his right.
"Christie is running the worst campaign I have ever seen," a "veteran
national Republican consultant" told Walter Shapiro of Politics Daily.
"Everyone knows there's a tax revolt going on except the Christie
campaign. Instead he wasted a month talking about mammograms."
Special elections so far this year show a trend toward the GOP.
Republicans have won state legislative seats long held by Democrats in
Maine, New Hampshire, Delaware, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Alabama,
Florida and Oklahoma. In normally Democratic Albuquerque Oct. 6, a
Republican ousted a three term Democratic mayor.
The apparent GOP revival has little to do with anything Republicans have
done. There's a saying in British politics: "The Opposition doesn't win
elections. The Government loses them."
That's true on this side of the pond, too. Independents have shifted
allegiance not because they like Republicans better, but because they
now hate and fear Democrats more. But as the Christie campaign
illustrates, there is no opportunity so great that Republicans can't
screw it up.
This is especially true in New York's 23rd congressional district, in
which there is an election Nov. 3 to replace John McHugh, who resigned
to become Secretary of the Army.
The 23rd is one of the few Republican leaning districts left in New
York. With the national mood shifting against Democrats, it should be a
slam dunk for the GOP. But Democrat Bill Owens is favored, because
local GOP bosses picked a candidate, Dede Scozzafava, who is to Mr.
Owens' left. Both a social liberal and a big spender, she's connected
to the radical group ACORN.
There is a third candidate, Conservative Doug Hoffman, who is closing in
on Ms. Scozzafava. The race pits the national GOP leadership, which is
pouring big bucks into Ms. Scozzafava's campaign, against the party's
"The distinctions between Republicans and Democrats...are being
overshadowed by what we might call the Court Party made up of the
well-connected...who see themselves as potters of the great American
clay...and the Country Party the many more who are tired of being
treated as clay," said Princeton Prof. Angelo Codevilla.
"The polls do not capture the extent of the voter anger out there at the
two parties," Mr. Daggett told Mr. Shapiro.
With Court Party Republicans embracing Ms. Scozzafava, and potential
2012 rivals Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee maintaining a cowardly
neutrality, Sarah Palin could seize leadership of the Country Party by
endorsing Mr. Hoffman. Does she have the wit and the guts to do so?