By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Not quite a tidal wave but something more than a ripple on the water, the Republican victories in the 2009 elections demonstrated that, despite the fondest wishes of many supposedly objective political analysts and pundits, the Grand Old Party is far from kaput.
Of particular interest is the apparent resurgence of the suburban Republican and the Republican-leaning independent, cohorts that even two years ago were thought to be a dying breed. Tuesday, they turned out to be the balance of power in important places like New Jersey, where Republican Chris Christie ousted incumbent Democrat Gov. Jon Corzine by about five points.
Particularly significant is the swing in Bergen County, New Jersey's largest and a microcosm of both the old and new suburbs. In places like this, taxes rule. Tuesday, Bergen came within a point or two of voting for Christie after having voted heavily for Obama in 2008 and having gone for Corzine 56 percent to 42 percent in 2005.
Elsewhere in the Northeast, the Republicans recaptured critical real estate on Long Island's Nassau County and in upscale Westchester County, where the GOP won the race for county executive 58 percent to 42 percent, ousting a multiyear Democrat incumbent, and won scores of local races as well. And in Pennsylvania, a Republican-endorsed candidate was elected to the state's Supreme Court thanks to a strong showing in the collar counties around Philadelphia.
These races all have one thing in common: They produced wins for the GOP in places that were thought lost to the Republicans long ago. Democrats were quick to spin the races as isolated cases, centered on local issues. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "From our perspective, we won last night," speaking of the two special elections for U.S. House seats won Tuesday by Democrats but ignoring the results from elsewhere in the country.
The Democrats were also quick to point out that, according to most exit polling, the outcomes had little to do with President Obama and his agenda. Given the amount of time he spent trying to get out the vote in New Jersey and the way Democrats in Virginia featured him in their last-minute television ads designed to get out the vote, that's a bad sign. As the Democrats appear to see it, it's not so much that the electorate was thinking badly about Obama as it was they were not thinking about him at all.