Big Night - The Stakes
First things first--let's correct a few assumptions about what these elections portend for today. In a word, nothing.
If The Democrats win the governorships of Virginia and New Jersey, nothing changes. The big news will be that the corrupt old New Jersey system remains unchanged and in the hands of the inept liberal leadership that has gone on for decades, Virginia remains in largely conservative Democratic hands (would that New Jersey had that same luxury), Michael Bloomberg remains mayor of New York, extending Republican control of that city for over 12 years, a bunch of other big cities retain their Democrat mayors, and a few ballot initiatives stand or fall.
Seats don't change hands.
Virginia--Jerry Kilgore has a real shot a winning in Virginia, and I'd love to see it happen, but it's all about turnout, given that the race could be no closer. Check RealClearPolitics for the stats. Republicans can certainly mobilize voters, but the thing that concerns me is that Virginia was largely a given last year for Bush, so mobilization effort like we saw Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania or Florida--the real tossups--would not have been as big a deal. Certainly they can construct something in a year's time, but I don't know if they saw this being the close finish that it will be. If Kilgore can't get huge turnout in the areas of western and southern Viriginia that he needs, he is indeed doomed.
New Jersey--A state whose voters have made it the armpit it has become. If one word can define New Jersey politics, I'd say that word would be "corrupt". A state Supreme Court that violated election law to allow Lautenberg to run in Torricelli's spot, because Torricelli felt that because of (surprise) corruption charges, Lautenberg had a better shot at winning than he did. Would they have done it for a Republican? A governor whose homosexual relationship led him to compromise a state homeland security position for his lover--as his wife smiled for the cameras at the public revelation. And now a governor's race that has sunk below mudslinging to outright catapulting of feces. Jon Corzine's personal life is a big campaign issue. And while I think one's fidelity to a spouse is a relevant issue in an election (I don't buy the whole compartmentalization argument), as integrity in the marriage has a bearing upon integrity in other areas, Doug Forrester's (R) use of Corzine's ex-wife in a capaign ad to highlight his infidelity was more than just a little tacky. Add to that the revelation that Corzine made a gigantic loan/gift to a mistress who was part of a gigantic labor union in New Jersey, and the stench rises above the acrid smell of the New Jersey smokestacks. The tactic probably actually brought Forrester down with it. Because when you fling feces, you're going to get some on you. But I think the real damage was to Corzine. Per the RealClearPolitics averages, Forrester's attacks have caused real harm to Corzine, but unless you believe that the Farleigh-Dickinson numbers are not outliers, this very damaged Corzine candidacy will likely score the win. Unless of course the smell of a possible victory gets Republican voters out in droves. Unlikely to be certain, but a possibility. That possibility is more likely, I think, than Corzine getting more people than usual out to vote for him. He is an unattractive candidate and won't get more than the normal turnout, and might actually get less, but that's not a big worry for a Democrat in New Jersey. Corzine becomes New Jersey governor, which is fitting, given the Louisiana style corruption that marks that state's government.
And what would an election be without Ohio (as Florida is probably less in vogue)? The Dems are seeking to legally sanction their favorite election tactics, the stuffed ballot box, the fraudulent ballot, and standardless vote tallies. Paul Weyrich has a great explanation of the affects and stakes. Specifically, they seek to create "no excuse" absentee votes, meaning that people are free to use an absentee ballot even if they could probably make it to the polls, thus increasing the use of such ballots and the potential for fraud (anyone remember a guy paid with crack in Ohio last year to illegally procure ballots?). Then there is a provision that would take the duty of election supervision away from the Secretary of State, and turn it over to a band of unaccountable political appointees who will be "the law" when it comes to elections. Sound familiar? And there are a few others that take away powers delegated to officials in the State Constitution. It's all bad. nd it's more of the same from the left. If the voters won't do what they want them to do, the left will then make the voter little more than a detail in a much larger system rigged to work for pink political interests. In short, it's about putting a reliable few in power and marginalizing the voters whom the left do not trust to make decisions for themselves.
But one myth I'd like to dispel is that any election result today has anything to do with George Bush. New Mexico Governor, failed Energy Secretary, asterisk on John Kerry's VP short list, and perpetual campaigner for his own presidency, Bill Richardson, who is as in love with the camera as John McCain, postulated this morning that these elections are referenda on Bush. Which means that he expects the elections to turn out as I do--Democrat victories. It's a standard Democratic mantra: all politics is local when they get trounced, and it's all about a national mandate when they win even a town council position. But folks, this is all local.
And Bill Richardson has a personal reason for saying something so silly. He is running for president in 2008. He'll be an also-ran, but he doesn't see it that way. But if Kaine wins, the Democrats are viewing it as an endorsement of current Virginia Governor Mark Warner (D), who is seen as the anti-Hillary primary candidate for 2008. And if an anti-Hillary trend develops (which it won't), people like Richards who tend to be a bit more conservative have some hope. But there are a few problems with that calculus.
Virginia is a very conservative state. Conservative (or apparently conservative) Democrats win statewide elections there, not those further left like Hillary Clinton. And any Kaine victory-- while possibly an affirmation of Warner's leadership--has nothing to do with decisions to be made in the Democrat primaries of 2008 (after all, Virginia Democrats have consistently run conservatives). And the base in Virginia won't be the one that provides the compass for 2008. And we have 2 years to go before then. But I'll hazard a guess that the Dems aren't going any further towards the center from the nice warm fever swamp where they have pitched their tents for the past five years. Hillary is safe and the moderates will not have nearly her appeal unless her fortunes change dramatically over the next twelve months.
So, tonight is a night for the Dems to celebrate holding some seats, but losing New York to Republicans again. So to put it all in perspective, wins by Kaine and Corzine will will probably benefit the Democrats nationally as much as having Michael Bloomberg as New York Mayor has benefitted the Republicans nationally.
Don't pop the champagne corks too loud.