“In focus groups, especially among Independent voters, people will say they voted [last year] for Obama and a Democratic candidate, and they’re still rooting for Obama, but have real reservations over bailouts, the stimulus, and especially the spending,” he explains.
The takeaway for the Republican Party, he adds, will be to find mainstream conservatives, like Governors-elect Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Chris Christie of New Jersey, who eschewed, choosing instead to focus on the issues that weigh most heavily on voters’ minds: jobs and the economy. And instead of maintaining a reputation as the party of no, Republican lawmakers will have to put out their own ideas on issues like healthcare.
Rep. Artur Davis (D-Alabama), who has launched a campaign for the governor’s mansion in his home state, argues that the results were based solely on the individual candidates and local circumstances. New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, he says, was viewed as unsuccessful and Creigh Deeds simply was unable to capture the imaginations of the voters in Virginia.
Pointing to the surprisingly close race between New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and opponent Bill Thompson, the city’s former comptroller, Davis says, “If the Democratic Party had been fully engaged in New York and put some money into it, it could have been the upset of the century. So the reality is don’t think you can take very much from yesterday.”
Analysts were also keeping a close eye on the special election in New York’s 23rd District, which, surprisingly, Democrat Bill Owens won. According to David Bositis, senior research analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, he’s the first to win that district since 1782.
“It was the one race that clearly had national implications and Owens campaigned on healthcare reform,” says Bositis. He believes that derails Republican assertions that voters are disgruntled with the Democratic agenda, arguing instead that it’s just been a bad year for incumbents.
Still, he adds, there are lessons for Democrats to learn. “They need to pass healthcare reform because they’ll be in trouble if they don’t. People will think they’re ineffectual and won’t vote for them,” Bositis cautions. “And even more t than before, they need to time themselves to Obama.