Fallout for Dems from Tuesday's Election

Republican victories in gubernatorial contests in New Jersey and Virginia yesterday were striped across the nation's newspapers this morning. The GOP and some in the press were quick to label the results a rebuke to Obama.

Late-breaking results of a special Congressional election in upstate New York that went to the Dems has clouded the picture, though. And some of the punditry labeling this a serious blow to the White House may go a bit too far. Patrick Kennedy is among those appearing in a Washington Post piece on the topic:

Independents, who were crucial to the president's election campaign, swung dramatically to Republicans in both state contests. If that pattern holds a year from now, Democratic lawmakers in swing districts could find themselves on the losing side of a reelection fight.

"Watching their party hemorrhage independent voters should send shivers down the spines of Democrat strategists as they look ahead to Senate elections next year in states like Nevada, Colorado, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Pennsylvania," declared Republican Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) in a memo to reporters.

Democratic lawmakers were just beginning to digest the news, but expressed some concern about the impact on their futures if the effects linger into next year's election cycle.

"I think it kind of reflects a general anti-incumbent feeling," said  Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), acknowledging that such sentiment will hurt his party if it persists into 2010. "Next year is a millennium away, politically, so there's plenty of time for us. I guess we have a lot to be grateful for that the election isn't next month or next week."

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said Democrats can boost their fortunes simply by doing what they promised last November.

"I think that Democrats were elected last year on the basis of change, and once we pass health care . . . that will fundamentally change the dynamics," Engel said, adding that voters were obviously concerned about the economy, "but hopefully by next year things will begin to turn around."

White House officials rejected what they said was overhyped conclusions about the impact on Obama of losing the governorships in New Jersey and Virginia, and instead sought to focus attention on the Democratic victory in New York's 23rd congressional district.

"We won a congressional seat that's been in Republican hands since Ulysses S. Grant was president, in part because of the disunity in the Republican party," senior adviser David Axelrod said in an early-morning phone interview. "That was the only truly national contest on the ballot."

Axelrod said the intervention of national conservatives in pushing the moderate GOP candidate out of the New York race will be the only lasting impact of the night.

"The most portentous thing that happened yesterday was that the right wing of the Republican party ran a moderate Republican essentially out of the race, and lost a seat they had held for more than 100 years," he said. "I don't take that as discouragement."


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