With both Virginia’s and New Jersey’s governor races won by Republican candidates and the loss by the Conservative candidate, Hoffman, in NY-23 Congressional district, the results of yesterday’s elections have interesting implications for the Republican Party. In short, these results have reflect a distaste with the Democrats’ agenda, coupled with a call for greater Republican cohesiveness. This bodes well for the moderate Republican movement.
The Republican win of both governorships is a clear indictment of Obama’s policies and Congress’s rule. Both states went to Obama last year. Of the two, New Jersey has historically been ‘bluer’. Virginia on the other hand has swung more widely. It is thus less surprising that Virginia elected a Republican governor. What is surprising is the magnitude of Republican Robert McDonnell’s win. McDonnell won Virginia with an astounding 59% of votes, a massive swing from the percentage of Virginia voters that supported Obama last year.
However, the Republican triumph in the historically staunch blue state of New Jersey is the more significant of the two. New Jersey has long been considered a Democratic stronghold. They fact that the state could go red only a year after Obama’s election supposedly stamped a new mandate on America, reflects a strong repudiation of the past year’s policies. Both Virginia’s and New Jersey’s results signify America’s distaste with the overreach of government and the inability of the administration to solve the most pressing issues.
So what is one to make of the loss of Congressional district NY-23, a long-time Republican district? Democratic pundits will most certainly claim it counters any message sent by the governor races. However, the story more directly reflects the internal problems within the Republican Party than national politics.
The muddled race began with liberal Republican candidate, Dede Scozzafava, running against former Independent-cum-Democrat Bill Owens. A rebellion by Republicans prompted Conservative Party candidate Hoffman to jump into the fray at the last minute. Scozzafava was immediately overshadowed and dropped out of the race; ironically throwing her weight behind Owens. The result of theRepublican infighting split the Republican vote. Furthermore, Hoffman’s candidacy never had the time needed to fully get off the ground. Voters were undoubtedly unclear about where he stood. Ultimately, this handed the race to a Democrat for the first time since the Civil War.
Yesterday’s elections send a clear message to the activist wing of the Republican Party. The branch of the party that wants to see a smaller, more ‘ideologically pure’ party has been dealt a heavy blow. The failure in NY-23 is clearly an issue of party infighting. Hoffman or Scozzafava most likely would have won if they were the sole right-wing candidate; however, by taking the fight outside of the Republican Party all conservatives lost.
This election is a resounding success for the Big Tent Republicans. Republicans have won where they have appealed to all and have lost where they have become narrow and isolated. This will become increasingly important as conservative Republicans aim to challenge moderate Republican candidates, such as Charlie Crist, next year. The challenges are welcomed, but should stay within the party. Republican candidates should be selected that can appeal to their electorates. As the wins in New Jersey and Virginia show, America has soured to the liberal excesses in Washington. Republicans can win by being true to their principles and reaching out to independents and Democrats. But they cannot win by being exclusionary and fighting amongst each other.