It ought to be obvious that the Republican party, being in such dire straits, is going to exaggerate any win they can find in order to prop up their damaged image, and to give themselves a desperate sense of hope for 2010.
Any party would do that.
But last night was a far different story than the one you'll see invented on Fox News, and it doesn't have a pretty ending for the red team.
I think it was clear early on that Creigh Deeds wasn't a very good candidate. It doesn't matter what the local or national climate is, if your guy sucks, he's going to lose. It's just that simple. In the closing days, Deeds became increasingly nervous and did something that most establishment Democrats do when they get nervous: he ran to the right.
Only you can't flank Republicans like that. They'll say and do literally anything to attain power for themselves.
You can't out-lie a liar.
When Deeds pandered to conservatives by saying he'd opt Virginia out of the federal public insurance option - an option that a strong majority of Americans want to have -- that was a pretty good sign he was finished in that race. But it wasn't like a Democrat winning the race was some sort of foregone conclusion.
Virginia has had six Republican and five Democratic governors in the last 35 years. Douglas Wilder, a Democrat, and George "macaca" Allen, obviously a Republican, served the state during much of the Clinton administration. Jim Gilmore (R) and Mark Warner (D) covered most of the Bush administration, with Tim Kaine (D) covering the rest, now followed by McDonnell (R). The only pattern or trend here is that Virginia voters like to mix it up on a regular basis, and have been doing so for much of the past three decades.
What this means for Virginia is little more than a change in appearances. Democrats took control of the Virginia state Senate in 2007, erasing a Republican majority for the first time since 1999 (which, according to records, was the first time the GOP had controlled that chamber...ever.) Since the governor has no impact on the nation as a whole, the only benefit to Republicans of holding that position is the ability to stop Democratic legislation from passing. But since Democrats only control one chamber in Virginia, the chances of any liberal legislation coming out of there were already next to nothing.
In other words nothing really changed in Virginia at all.
New Jersey is just another contrarian state government
New Jersey isn't that much different than Virginia in some respects. Since the 70s, there have been roughly an equal number of Democratic and Republican governors, although that's discounting the three Republicans and one Democrat that served as acting governor in 2002. Seeing NJ flip from blue to red in the governor's mansion, like in Virginia, isn't really all that unusual. In fact it appears to be somewhat commonplace over the past few decades.
Unlike Virginia though, New Jersey is a bit of a contrarian state where the legislature is dominated by one party, but the governorship is held by another. A well known example of this would be California, where the state legislature is controlled (albeit narrowly at times) by Democrats, but Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger is the sitting governor. I believe there are at least ten other states just like that. So too is the case in New Jersey, where Democrats hold a 48-32 advantage in the general assembly (the state House, basically), and 23-17 in the state Senate.
Obviously this change in New Jersey will limit what the liberal legislature can pass unabated, but that's all that McDonnell can do. He likely won't see any significant initiatives of his own pass because he has no friends anywhere in the state. And since this isn't the first time a Republican has served as governor in recent years, this is hardly news anyway.
NY-23 - Bad news, but not for Democrats
New York's 23rd district is kind of a tricky thing to follow given how many times New York has been redistricted over the years. I've heard people say that NY-23 hasn't been held by a Democrat for over 120 years, and I suppose that might be true depending on how you look at it. If so, then this represents a pretty bad loss for the Republican party on the national level.
These elections, after all, have been touted repeatedly by conservatives that simply don't know any better as the indicator to their prospects for a comeback in 2010. Of course you can bet they'd change their tune if they lost all of these races. Only heading into 2010, Democrats now have more seats in the House than they did when the year began. Those don't sound like rosy prospects to me.
We all know (we apparently being not ignorant conservatives) that local races have no ties to the national climate. Exit polling confirmed what early polling showed in Virginia, mainly that "Obama is not a factor" in the way people intended to vote. And why would he be? Governors have no say in federal matters like health care reform, or cap-and-trade. Local races historically have never been a referendum on either national party.
But a local race is not a House race. These people will have a vote on health care reform, cap-and-trade, and any number of federal issues that will surface between now and 2012. These people will have a direct say in what part of President Obama's agenda gets passed, or withers on the vine. And what happened in the two special elections last night, with Republicans vying for the power to stop the evil, socialist, liberal onslaught?
Democrats won both of them.
More than that, since NY-23 was formerly held by Republican John McHugh, that seat has now contributed to an even larger House majority for the Democrats. And as if that weren't enough, with all this teabagging going on around the country, one might think that a teabagger candidate might have a shot at rising from conservative populism.
Doug Hoffman was a teabagger, endorsed by the far right (Palin, many others) and New York's 23rd district, with a PVI of R+1 (meaning it leans slightly to the right) and having not been represented by a Democrat in over 100 years was handed to a Democrat over a real-life teabagger.
Somehow I don't think you'll hear about that major Republican victory on Fox News.
I don't really have anything to say about California 10. A Democrat won, California's former Lt. Governor John Garamendi. Other failures from 2008 stuck their neck out for guys like David Harmer (the GOP candidate), people like Fox News host Mike Huckabee, but all they did was drag him down it seems. Everywhere the teabaggers went, they lost. Everywhere moderate Republicans went (in local races, anyway), they won.
And on the national stage, Democrats have more votes in the House of Representatives at the end of this year than they did when the year began.
Perhaps Republicans have a lesson to learn here.