Monday, November 02, 2009

Election Day 2009: An Obama Referendum and Republican Resurgence?

In three states tomorrow, voters will head to the polls to and vote in off-year elections viewed to be a referendum on Obama's policies in the first 10 months of his presidency. The elections in Virginia and New Jersey, where voters will elect new legislators to their statehouses and choose new governors in seats currently held by Democrats, could provide insight into a possible Republican resurgence in 2010. In 1993, Republicans re-captured the governorships of Virginia and New Jersey before going on to gain control of congress in the 1994 Republican revolution.

Attorney General Bob McDonnell is expected to handily win the governor's race in Virginia after 11 years of Republican control. Additionally, Republicans are expected to win the lieutenant governor's seat and attorney general's seat (based on recent polling) as well as increase their margins in the House of Delegates and State Senate. McDonnell, a native of northern Virginia, is expected to even perform well there--in the state's most urban and populated suburbs of Washington, D.C., which had been trending strongly Democratic until recently: just this year, Fairfax County elected a Republican to a formerly Democratic-held county commissioner's seat, a Republican came within half a percentage point of winning a county commission chair election, a Republican came within 16 votes of winning an Alexandria-based state house seat, and two Republicans actually won positions on the Alexandria city council.

New Jersey, one of the most Democratic states in the nation, is on the verge of throwing out incumbent governor and Goldman Sach's millionaire Jon Corzine in favor of U.S. Attorney Chris Christie. This race will be a bitter fight to the end, but despite recent appearances by Obama, campaign momentum had remained with Christie in recent days.

Voters in New York's 23rd congressional district are going to the polls in a special election to fill John McHugh's seat after his appointment by Obama to be Secretary of the Navy. Republican leaders chose liberal Republican Dede Scozzafava as their nominee but faced a revolt from conservative activists when Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman entered the race. Scozzafava saw her support plummet in the polls in this very rural and strongly Republican upstate New York district as Republican heavyweights from Sarah Palin to Fred Thompson to George Pataki endorsed her Conservative Party opponent, so she suspended her campaign this past weekend and true to form, endorsed the Democrat in the race. Polls show this to be a tight race, but conservative Hoffman has the edge in most polls and now has the backing of the Republican Party establishment.

Lastly, although not as high profile as the other 3 races, voters in California's 50th district in the ultra-liberal San Fransisco bay area will choose between Democrat John Garamendi and Republican David Harmer after Democrat Rep. Ellen Tauscher was appointed to a federal position by Obama. Tauscher won this district with 65 percent of the vote in 2008 and Obama won the district 65-33 percent, but recent polls give Garamendi a lead of only 7-10 points. If the Republican comes within single digits in a liberal district just outside San Fransisco, this will be yet another sign of public unease with Obama and Pelosi's Washington.

As far as New Jersey, Virginia, and NY-23 are concerned, if Republicans win 2 of these 3, a major case can be made for the impending Republican gains and possible takeover of congres in 2009.

Here are my predictions:

VA:
McDonnell (R) – 58%
Deeds (D) – 41%

NJ:
Christie (R) – 47%
Corzine (D) – 44%
Daggett (I) – 9%

NY:
Hoffman (C)– 47%
Owens (D) – 40%
Scozzafava (liberal R) – 13%

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