Saturday, November 7, 2009

A GOP “Ah-Hah” Moment: NJ, VA and NY-23 Election Results











The GOP had a big, whopping “Ah Hah” moment coming out of last Tuesday’s New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial and NY-23 congressional election results. The GOP “Ah Hah” was this:

Hey, most of the U.S. is conservative or moderate, are concerned about job creation, lower taxes, fiscal responsibility, promoting free enterprise, the right to make their own choices and a strong national defense. Ah Hah!! Our fundamental conservative, Republican platforms and principles reflect those concerns, but somehow along the way we lost sight of that reality”.

Reality, what a concept. Maybe the GOP needs to read the Gallop Polls more often, which confirms the above, to inform them of this reality.

The GOP has made some serious strategic mistakes over last 3-5 years by straying from their core principles as codified by the 1980-1988 Reagan era and the 1994 Gingrich “Contract with America”. President Bush was an honorable, principled and courageous man who dedicated his presidency to protecting the U.S. from the “evildoers” and did so with great success. History will mark him admirably for taking the U.S. and the world on its maiden voyage against terrorism.

However, notwithstanding the Bush tax cuts, the spending sprees throughout his presidency were antithetical to the Reagan/Gingrich core conservative values. The Democratic takeover from the Republicans of the House of Representatives in 2006 was primarily due to the fact that the electorate characterized the Republicans, according to the Club for Growth, as the new party of “big government”. In 2006 the electorate reasoned that if now both parties espouse big government ,we might as well elect the party that had more experience expanding it, i.e., the Democrats.

So how did the GOP respond to this message from the electorate in the 2008 presidential campaign? They decided to put forth as their candidate Sen. John McCain. Sen. McCain is a true American hero, a strongly principled statesman and a class act who has served his country in a manner such that he is a role model for all Americans. However, on virtually every level, Sen. McCain’s stances on policy issues has run counter to the core conservative positions. As David Limbaugh wrote in NewsMax,
“Former Sen. Rick Santorum, whose conservative credentials are beyond question, said, "I don't agree with (McCain) on hardly any issues." Santorum told radio host Mark Levin, "I just have to tell you, as a leader, as someone who had to put these coalitions together, it was always hard and we very rarely on domestic policy had any help from the senator from Arizona."

Granted, one cannot ignore the Obama “cult of personality” generated by the liberal media during the 2008 presidential campaign. The media impetus afforded Obama would have been insurmountable, perhaps for even the most staunchly conservative candidate. But the GOP’s backing of McCain’s candidacy was a message to the electorate that the GOP was serving up more of the same, ignoring their base and the citizenry's core principles.

Along comes the 2009 off-election year with critical gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia and a controversial House race in New York's 23rd district. John Corzine, incumbent Democratic governor of indigo blue New Jersey, outspent Republican challenger Chris Christie by almost 3-1. The list of liberals who stumped for the far-left Corzine is a “who’s who” of the current liberal generation. President Obama, Vice-President Biden, former President Bill Clinton and Caroline Kennedy all campaigned in New Jersey on behalf of Corzine in this Bobby Vinton “Blue on Blue” state, which has about 1.8 million registered Democrats compared to only 1.1 million registered Republicans and 2.4 million unaffiliated voters.

Despite the massive Corzine campaign machine’s favored odds, the New Jersey electorate voted for Christie by a 4% margin, which most likely would have been even higher if not for the New Jersey spoiler candidate Chris Daggett, getting 5% of the vote. New Jersey went from a plus 15 Democratic vote in the 2008 presidential election for Obama to a minus four in 2009; a 19-point swing toward Republicans.

In the Virginia gubernatorial race Republican Bob McDonnell cruised to a 17 point landslide victory over his "moderate" Democrat opponent. Moreover, the damage to the Democratic Party in Virginia didn’t stop there, as the Republicans added six seats to their majority in the state’s House of Delegates. In the 2008 presidential election Virginia was expected to be a model for the new wave of Obama liberalism, having gone Democratic in the 2008 presidential for the first time in 44 years. However, in this year’s governor’s race it went scarlet. Barack Obama carried Virginia by six points in the 2008 presidential election. The Republican gubernatorial candidate won by 17 points; a 23-point swing towards Republicans.

In New York’s 23rd congressional race the strategic error made by Republicans, and surprisingly including Gingrich, was, as with McCain, selecting a candidate such as Dede Scozzafava, an extremely liberal Republican with ties to ACORN, who supports abortion rights, gay marriage, enjoyed union backing and supported the Obama stimulus packages. The Republican party realized their error, albeit late in the campaign, and threw their support along with Sarah Palin’s behind Conservative party candidate Doug Hoffman, a relatively unknown. Even given this strategic mishap in candidacy selection Mr. Hoffman lost the NY-23 seat by only 3%, with Ms. Scozzafava receiving 6% of the district’s vote. One can only wonder what the outcome of NY-23 would have been if the Republican party had instead learned their lesson from the 2008 presidential campaign and thrown early support behind Hoffman.

Are the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” NY-23 hindsights meant to be interpreted that the Republican party is not the “big tent” party of the people? Of course, not. As Mike Huckabee said,
"The tent could be big, but it shouldn’t have holes in the ceiling and let the rain come through,” he continued. “What we have to be careful of is, we don’t have a party that says, it has to be just like me and nothing but. Can there be people who don’t have my view on the sanctity of life in the Republican Party? Of course. People who have a different view of marriage than I do? Sure they can. “Can they be Republican? Yes. Will they get my support? No.”

Huckabee went on to say,
“I thought the process by which she (Scozzafava) was selected was in fact the train wreck,” he said. “It was truly boneheaded to pick someone who had ACORN/union backing, was pro-abortion, pro-same-sex marriage, pro-Obama healthcare. There were just so many things that she was just at odds not just with the mainstream of the party, but she was more liberal than most of the Democrats in Congress.”

As much as the Obama camp attempted to spin the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial election results as not a referendum on the President or his agenda, the victories in New Jersey and Virginia were reflective of the resounding confirmation that these two states, which gave resounding victories to Obama in the presidential election, were sending a message to the GOP that they crave a national return to governing by the Reagan/Contract with America conservative, Republican principles.

If one is skeptical of the anti-Obama referendum in New Jersey an Virgina simply review the exit polls. In Congressional Quarterly Ron Faucheux writes that
“…last night was a good night for Republicans. Here’s why: The economy was the dominant issue – and Republicans won it. Exit polling shows that 89 percent of New Jersey voters and 85 percent of Virginia voters were worried about the nation’s economic direction over the next year. Solid majorities, 56 percent in New Jersey and 53 percent in Virginia, said they were “very” worried. Mr. Faucheux’s additional analysis is that, "voters most worried about the economy voted for GOP candidates in heavy numbers: In Virginia, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell won those “very” worried 77 percent to 23 percent. In New Jersey, voters “very” worried went with Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie 61 percent to 34 percent. Independents broke heavily for Republicans”.

Yes, two states that are"very worried" of the country's economic direction led by the Obama democrats. Two states that are reflective of the nation's concerns and are craving the Republican party's core, conservative principles. Ah Hah, reality, what a concept for the GOP.

ln Charles Krauthammer’s analysis of the New Jersey and Virginia results he writes,
“Moreover, the same conventional wisdom that proclaimed the dawning of a new age last November dismissed the inevitable popular reaction to Obama's hubristic expansion of government, taxation, spending and debt -- the tea party demonstrators, the town hall protesters -- as a raging rabble of resentful reactionaries, AstroTurf-phony and Fox News-deranged.”


GOP lessons learned from the 2008 and 2009 election are twofold; (1) serve up candidates that reflect the party’s and the citizenry's core conservative Reagan/"Contract with America" values and (2) propagation of the GOP as the big tent party, not the “Tower of Babel” party. 


If the GOP laser focuses on these 2 strategies they will minimize their “Ah Hah” moments and hopefully cause the democrats to start experiencing some “Uh Oh” moments.

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