Exactly one year ago today, Monday November 3, 2008, I posted my longest and most viewed blog entry: a preview of the next day’s election. I was pretty close — I got the Senate almost exactly right (I had Coleman beating Franken, but that was close), and I over-estimated the size of Obama’s victory. Still, it’s hard to believe a year has past.
Today I’ll have a very short preview of tonight’s elections.
The most important election today takes place here in Maine, a referendum to overturn a legislative decision to allow gay marriage. If the “Yes” side wins, that means the law is overturned and gays cannot legally marry. If the “No” side wins, gay marriage is not only legal, but for the first time a state referendum will have approved it. I will write about that election tomorrow, however it turns out. I believe the “no” side will prevail, and perhaps by a larger amount than people anticipate. However, it could go either way. This is a very consequential election.
Other than that only three elections of national note are occurring, and only one seems hotly contested. A quick run through:
Virginia: Bob McDowell (R) should easily defeat Creigh Deeds (D), as the polls show a double digit margin. Spin from the right: this shows that Obama’s magic has faded, and the GOP is resurgent in a Virginia that had been shifting to the left. Spin from the left: this wasn’t about Obama but state politics. Reality: It isn’t about Obama, but it does reflect a mood more cynical of the Democrats than existed a year ago. The party in power usually does poorly in off year elections, it’s starting now.
New Jersey: The incumbent Jon Corzine (D) is locked in a tough fight with challenger Chris Christie (R), with most polls giving Christie a slight edge. A wild card is the third party challenger, Christopher Daggett. This is a true toss up. On the one hand, the trend has been towards Christie, and the bad economy in an off year election works against the incumbent Democrat. However, New Jersey is a more Democratic state. My hunch is that voters will stick with Corzine, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
New York – 23: This is the only other race of consequence, and it should be a no-brainer. A Democrat has not won this northern New York district for 150 years, it is solidly Republican. Yet weird internal GOP politics has made this into either a yawner whose ramifications will remain within the GOP, or a wild upset which could really give the Democrats something good to take away from this election. The likely scenario (and the one I’m predicting) is that Doug Hoffman (Conservative) will defeat Bill Owens (D), with the Republican who dropped out, Dede Scozzafava, getting in single digits (her name remains on the ballot).
The race represents political intrigue. Scozzafava was chosen to run for the seat after John McHugh (R) was chosen by President Obama to become Secretary of the Army. But she was too moderate for conservatives, especially those “tea party” activists who helped convince Hoffman to run as a conservative. At first, this looked like it might give the Democrat an unlikely shot at winning this solidly GOP district by splitting the Republican vote. Then as big name conservatives around the country jumped on the Hoffman bandwagon, it was clear that the top two contenders were Hoffman and Owen. At that point, Scozzafava dropped out and out of anger at Hoffman’s attacks and the conservative vitriol against her, endorsed Owen. Hoffman should win easily. If, however, Owen pulls it out, this would be poison to the currently ebullient tea party conservatives.
Not only would a Hoffman loss show the conservative movement to be far weaker than they believe they are, but it would be a lesson to the GOP: replace moderates with hardliners, and you’ll lose places you should win. An Owen win will be a big victory for both the Democrats and moderate Republicans. If Hoffman wins, it might ultimately help the Democrats even more in the long run. They can say “we expected to lose, this is one of the most solidly Republican districts in the country,” and then comment on the way the “Stalinist” wing of the GOP (as one commentator labeled it) is trying to force ideological purity within the party. That could cause an internal “civil war” within the Republican party and weaken them going into 2010, which otherwise should be a good year for the GOP.
So there you have it. One election that could be historic here in Maine, one hotly contested Governor’s election in New Jersey, one easy GOP victory in Viriginia, and a New York Congressional election which should go GOP (and if it doesn’t, that would be big news). What a difference a year makes.