Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 4, 2009

ELECTION '09 - U.S. HOUSE RACES.... Now that we've talked about yesterday's gubernatorial races, let's review the U.S. House special elections.

Going into yesterday, it'd been a good year for Democrats in special elections, winning three races -- New York's 20th, Illinois's 5th, and California's 32nd. Yesterday, Dems made it five for five.

If California's 10th, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi (D), running a progressive campaign, defeated Republican David Harmer by double digits, 53% to 42.7%.

And in New York's 23rd, in the race that captured extensive national attention, Democrat Bill Owens scored a surprising win, beating Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman, 49.3% to 45.2%, with nearly all of the votes counted.

While it's a mistake to characterize either of these House races as bellwethers, the New York defeat not only gave Democrats something to be happy about on an otherwise disappointing Election Day -- Owens will be the first Dem to represent this area since the 19th century -- it was also a setback for the right-wing activists and leaders who'd invested so heavily in this special election.

Indeed, the far right had a plan. Activists and their allies would drive the moderate Republican away and rally behind the right-wing candidate. They would then take this model on the road, making NY-23 a model for competitive contests elsewhere. Of course, the strategy looks less impressive when the Democrat wins.

I found the RedState post on the results especially interesting. Erick Erickson called Hoffman's defeat "a huge win for conservatives."

First, the GOP now must recognize it will either lose without conservatives or will win with conservatives.... [W]e have demonstrated to the GOP that it must not take conservatives for granted. The GOP spent $900,000.00 on a Republican who dropped out and endorsed the Democrat. Were we to combine Scozzafava and Hoffman's votes, Hoffman would have won. [...]

The GOP had better pay attention. For all intents and purposes, NY-23 is a trial run for Florida. And in Florida, the conservative candidate is operating inside the GOP. If John Cornyn and the NRSC do not want to see Florida go the way of NY-23, they better stand down.

So, they can lose if Republicans nominate a moderate (and the base revolts), or they can lose if Republicans nominate a hard-line conservative (and the mainstream revolts).

I suspect Democrats like this plan.

Steve Benen 8:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (46)

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" Erick Erickson called Hoffman's defeat "a huge win for conservatives."

Now THAT'S spin worthy of Boss Limbaugh himself!

Posted by: DAY on November 4, 2009 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

I find amusing the comments from Nwe York Conservative Party Leader Mike Long and others that if the Republicans had just held a primary for the 23rd (for a special election) instead of a convention, the people of the district would not have revolted and caused this result.

I suppose that these conservative pundits are actually just ignorant of the fact that in 2008 the Virginia Republican party held a convention rather than a primary to select their senatorial candidate and got former governor Jim Gilmore rather than former representative Tom Davis to run against Mark Warner.

Mark Warner is our senator now. I suppose "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds", but hypocrisy seems to be the hallmark of conservatives, who will claim to embrace anything to win (even if they fail because of it).

Interesting that conservatives don't want government making your health care decisions, except of course when it comes to spending your own premium money for abortion coverage health insurance.

Posted by: Lance on November 4, 2009 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

That was one sweet victory. Republicans you now should engage in civil war with each other because the base is not going to compromise and you will keep losing if you keep putting up right wing crazies. You clowns had held this seat since the actual civil war, now it is time to purge yourselves of your enemy within. Maybe you could split off and form a new republican party.

Posted by: Patrick on November 4, 2009 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

Conservative?

I do not think that word means what Erickson thinks it means.

Still, taking a seat that's been safely Republican since the Civil War & tipping it to the Dems, that's .. ah .. a big victory, all right.

Posted by: zhak on November 4, 2009 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

Sarah drives me crazy and I can't help myself

Erick Erickson: "A huge win for conservatives."

Sparkles baby. Sparkles.

Posted by: koreyel on November 4, 2009 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

Gotta love conservative logic...losing is a huge win. Well I agree with you Erickson. You losing was a huge victory, for me, the Democrats, New York's 23rd and the United States. Please continue to win big like that and we will soon have 300 Democrats in the house.

Posted by: Patrick on November 4, 2009 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

Despite Bill Owens' overly-magnanimous victory speech downplaying the role of that pluperfect idiot, Palin, and the apparatchiks on Stalinist talk radio, the NY 23rd is absolutely a referendum on the substance of the Teabagger's message. By downplaying the involvement of Palin and the rest of the ditto-heads, not to mention the feckless and insincere Republikans in Congress, Owens is thinking one year ahead to the next election by not (justifiably) sticking both thumbs into the eye sockets of his moronic opponents and thus creating a voluable opposition even before he takes his seat.

Score another loss for the Palin/Fox/Beck/Limbaugh/assorted-rightwing-asshole party of America.

Posted by: Timpanist on November 4, 2009 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

Losing the NJ gov race was disappointing, but Corzine was disappointing. VA was no surprise either. The only contested race was NY 23, and the wingnuts' guy lost, showing that they can't diss the party and win alone.
Both new GOP governors are moderates, and the Dems have added a NY seat to their House majority in addition to holding the CA seat. Not great news for the Dems to be sure, but terrible tidings for the hard right, who won nowhere in these 4 elections.

Posted by: slader on November 4, 2009 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

Chuck Todd you little skeazy son-of-a-bitch. I woke up to the Today Show touting the Republican motto of the week about how yesterday's election is a looming indictment on the Obama administration. About how Obama put his cred on the line and campaigned for the Democrats in Virginia and New Jersey and they lost both races bla bla bla. I thought to myself out loud "that's odd. no mention of New York's 23rd District race. I wonder if the silence means Owens won?" My wife said maybe it was just too close to call still.

Nope. That fucking hack Todd and his fellow opiniontainers at NBC decided to drop the most watched race to cover what the Republicans are going to be pushing like crazy today. Fucking unbelievable.

Fuck you NBC.

Posted by: about time on November 4, 2009 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

Is anyone going to tell these people that the moderate republican would have won? That they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory?

Posted by: phg on November 4, 2009 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

I had to turn off the news this morning ...every station referendum bla bla referendum...gggggaaaaaaaaaaa
Message from me ; Fuck off we still have three more years

Posted by: john R on November 4, 2009 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

Let's not read too much into this result. Hoffman got 45% of the vote on the Conservative ticket; would he have fared better if he were on the Republican ticket? Probably. And how are we to interpret the 6% that voted for the Republican candidate? Was some of this a vote of protest against Hoffman, or were these Republican voters unaware of recent events? My guess is that in a straight matchup of Hoffman as a Republican candidate vs. Owens, Hoffman might well have won. That might be the matchup next time, unless the Republicans find a better candidate who is also more conservative. After all, this is basically a Republican district.

Nevertheless, this may have been a bellweather for 2010 or even more likely 2012--the Republican Party candidates are more extreme and rigid, and dogmatic adherents to the Palin/Limbaugh wing, and they lose more elections as a result.

Posted by: DRF on November 4, 2009 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

Let's see... a moderate Republican wins in New Jersey, a conservative-turned-moderate Republican wins in Virginia, a Democrat beats a wingnut Conservative in NY (for the first Dem win in the district since 1872) and Erickson declares victory. More victories like that, says I.

Posted by: MattF on November 4, 2009 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

and what about time said about NBC and their whole Republican spin. If you think that's bad - you should have seen Mourning Joe and Micha the wonderdog...did you know that the Democrats are doomed and have already lost all future elections through 2016

Posted by: john R on November 4, 2009 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

I think you're all missing just exactly what Erick and his followers really mean by victory. The establishment candidate was not pure enough for the tea-party nitwits, so they howled and screamed and drove her from the scene. AND they forced the national party to (belatedly) back their chosen wingnut candidate.

The win here for Erickson is that his wing of the party won a significant battle for control of the GOP. Erickson, Palin, Beck, and Limbaugh now dictate GOP politics. Old-line nuts like Gingrich and Steele have been stripped of power. That's the victory Erick is talking about.

Posted by: Domage on November 4, 2009 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

"Were we to combine Scozzafava and Hoffman's votes, Hoffman would have won..." But the real combination of Democratic and Scozzofava votes brought the victory to Owens. The 5% remaining Scozzofava votes were republicans who wouldn't vote for a Democrat but couldn't bring themselves to vote for Hoffman. But I also think we need to view this outside of political party terms--I am not from NY and know nothing about Hoffman, but from the little I information, he seems to be a very unappealing candidate on a variety of attributes.

Posted by: Dr. J on November 4, 2009 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

Hoffmann probably would have lost by a greater margin had Scozzafava's name not been on the ballot.

I think it's odd that THIS was the big one. this was the grand scheme put into action for all the nation to quake and marvel over. The two races for governor were pretty cut and dried, and were won and lost on local dynamics, but THIS one was the national roll out of the new conservative manifesto. This morning near silence. Funny how the media inflated this story like a fluffer on a porn set, and now, nothing.

Palin, Beck, Limbaugh ate dirt on this one in a very high profile way. The more moderate REpublicans who did an about face and jumped on the bandwagon are in a strange predicament now. Do they jump back, or do the stick with Facebook Sarah?

This contest was going to end in disaster no matter what. The disaster jsut depended on who won and who lost.

Both of the winning Republican candidates for governor did so by rejecting Sarah Palin's advances and running as moderates (in one case positining himself with the President). I think the REpublican power structure still doesn't realize that Palin, Beck, Limabaugh are entertainers (Palin has to be included as one, now) who care about ratings, book sales, advertising rates and speaking fees. They need and crave attention and publicity. This loss means nothing to them. They'll move on to the next and through some kind of public tantrum to get more attention. I don't think the GOP realizes it
's being played.

Posted by: SaintZak on November 4, 2009 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

DFR the chances are the NY23rd will go back to the Republicans the next election. After all this had been a safe Republican seat since the Civil War. What this election shows is that purging moderates is not a smart move for anybody who is actually interested in winning elections. The ever smaller Republican tent only helps the jocks on Talk Radio and Democrats. Regular Republicans not so much. Keep it up Boss Limbaugh, keep the flame alive. A smaller Republican party made up of out of touch intolerant dittoheads is jus tthe ticket.

Posted by: Ron Byers on November 4, 2009 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Let's not read too much into this result. Hoffman got 45% of the vote

Last year the Repubican got 65%. That's a big deal.

Posted by: Danp on November 4, 2009 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

@about time: The Boston Globe this morning buried the NY-23 story.

I can just imagine the small type the Herald gave it ... ;-)

Posted by: zhak on November 4, 2009 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Timpanist wrote: "NY 23rd is absolutely a referendum on the substance of the Teabagger's message."

That is so Tuesday. The current spin is... well, it doesn't seem to have crystallized yet. If Erickson's interpretation is any indication, the teabaggers are switching to hostage negotiations - "Give us control of the party, or we'll destroy more Republicans."

Posted by: Ken on November 4, 2009 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

All this talk of Democrat or Republican victories masks what's most important: progressive vs. conservative. So what if we progressives get Democrats elected when they turn out to be Traitor Joes or Ben Nelsons? How's that been working for you? You DO realize that Bill Owens will be another Blue Dog, right? I sympathize with Erick and his followers who have, at least, finally gotten fed up with the bait and switch tactics of their party's candidates. Is anyone else disappointed that Obama could visit NJ three times but our "fierce advocate" couldn't find the time for Maine? If we progressives would insist on liberal Democratic candidates AND ALSO go to the polls to support them, we might have health care and civil rights by now. Alas, only 40% of Virginia's registered voters made it to the polls. Only 54% in Maine. Sipping cocktails and planning your next trip around the world is just so time-consuming, I guess. Gotta hand it to those Christians, they go to the polls.

Posted by: MidwayGuy on November 4, 2009 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

So the Dems add yet another seat to their House majority, you know, the federal legislature that actually has some effect on Obama's power, and this is some big rebuke to Obama?
Please, rebuke him more!

Posted by: Allan Snyder on November 4, 2009 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

"I don't think the GOP realizes it's being played." - SaintZak

LOL - good one!

Posted by: Marko on November 4, 2009 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

Every time I hear these "news" people say how doomed the Dems are it fires me up, encourages me to attend more Democratic events and to donate to my candidates. Keep up the good work MSM you're helping my cause.

Posted by: maggie on November 4, 2009 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

I love the way the NY-23 race fell completely of the media radar when the wingnut lost. It reminds me of how John McCain became Mister Sunday Talk Show Guest after being clobbered in the Presidential Election.

Make no mistake, if Hoffman had one, all we would see and hear on the cable nutworks is how Obama needs to do a total 180 degree turn on all of his policies because the people have rejected his agenda.

Matthews, Todd, and Gregory would all solemnly pontificate on how he should abandon healthcare reform, send a milliontroops to Afghanistan, and nuke Iran.

Someone said it in an earlier comment, Cheney NBC!

Posted by: Winkandanod on November 4, 2009 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

I was shocked this morning when I woke up and booted up my computer and saw that Owens had won. Shocked and pleased.

Couple of questions. Was any of the Scozzafava votes from voters who had early-voted before Scozzafava dropped out last weekend? Could that account for the 5% she won yesterday?

We here at PA and other liberal political sites are political junkies. (Admit it, you are). Most people are not and don't follow politics with anywhere near the same passion we do. I wonder how many people in NY-23 followed all the ins-and-outs of the election as we did.

Anyway, great win. I hope Owens can hang on and win next year.

Posted by: phoebes-in-santa fe on November 4, 2009 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Shorter Erick Erickson: "The Black Knight is invincible!"

Posted by: short fuse on November 4, 2009 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

Spell check

Sorry "won" not "one"

Posted by: Winkandanod on November 4, 2009 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

If you think that's bad - you should have seen Mourning Joe and Micha the wonderdog...did you know that the Democrats are doomed and have already lost all future elections through 2016

Yes, same goes the local news station here in St.Louis which is running an AP story with the headline:

Voters Send Message to Obama

along with the article teaser:

"Two Democratic governor's seats switched parties as voters took their concerns about the economy and the political establishment into the voting booth yesterday."

Funny, but I don't remember such widespread and conclusive "referendum" coverage by the liberal MSM in 2001 or 2005.

Posted by: tempered optimism on November 4, 2009 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Ken gets it right, in my view. The current wingnut fundamentalist message is this: "America must be destroyed in order to be saved and we're gonna save America one district at a time."

Wrecking crew, indeed.

BTW, would someone please phone the NYT and tell them the word "wingnut", in politics at least, specifically refers to the holier-than-thou troglodytes darkening the landscape across this country today, the ones we like to call "rightwing conservatives"? Thank you.

Posted by: Timpanist on November 4, 2009 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

Erickson's remarks remind me a little of the commandos in "Life of Brian"; is Erickson an unconscious Python channeler?

Posted by: docdave on November 4, 2009 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Gotta hand it to those Christians, they go to the polls.-MidwayGuy @9:29

My voting venue here in St.Louis is at the local Christian church. I suspect many others areas are the same since churches have the space to operate large crowds during a weekday. Just the tax exempt crowd doing there civic duty. But, it sure does make it easier for the "church goers" to be "reminded" of their voting rights and the need to exercise them.

Posted by: tempered optimism on November 4, 2009 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

"we will soon have 300 Democrats in the house" - Patrick
each going their separate ways - Chopin

Posted by: Chopin on November 4, 2009 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

I find it rather interesting that the wingnuts invested so much time and energy in NY-23 when it will most likely disappear in the 2012 redistricting.

Posted by: sue on November 4, 2009 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Has anyone asked Palin for her reaction to the NY-23 results?

Fred Thompson? Pawlenty? Huckabee?

You'd think, since we were being force-fed their opinions about that district for weeks, that someone would have thought to ask them by now, since they're all involved.

(crickets)

Or not.

What wonderful media we have.

Posted by: biggerbox on November 4, 2009 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

This will be the last election for New York's 23rd district as it exists today. There will be redistricting in 2010, and the Dem controlled legislature will carve it up to keep Democratic control.

Posted by: BuzzMon on November 4, 2009 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

Shorter Erickson: The operation was a success (but the patient died).

Posted by: Marko on November 4, 2009 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

This is, if possible, even more entertaining than the "Teabaggers" blithely naming themselves after a gay sex act.

I hope they "win" more elections in this manner.

Posted by: Shade Tail on November 4, 2009 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

So, they can lose if Republicans nominate a moderate (and the base revolts), or they can lose if Republicans nominate a hard-line conservative (and the mainstream revolts).

I suspect Democrats like this plan."

Progressives would LOVE to have that kind of veto power over Democratic candidates! The right today feels about like we did when Ned Lamont defeated Joe Lieberman --- only to see "Holy Joe" win the general election. It's a mixed blessing. True, Joe won, but at least we forced a primary defeat on him and that was the beginning of real action.

The "victory" that presaged more progressive victories in 2008 was in forcing an unacceptable establishment candidate out of the race.

And they're not going to stop. Next is Florida where they hope to purge Charlie Crist as well.

So, it was a defeat for the Tea-baggers, but one they will prefer to having a RINO in their midst.

Personally, I'd like to see a lot more of this kind of thing on our side. Does having Joe Lieberman Max Baucus and Ben Nelson in the caucus help or hurt?

I'd say it hurts badly because without them we'd all be talking about reconciliation as the only possible way to pass health care reform. And there'd be no need to compromise at all. Olympia Snowe would be getting NO press and we wouldn't have to wake up and wonder what outrage Joe Lieberman was going to perpetrate today.

Posted by: Cugel on November 4, 2009 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

The MSM,, like always, is sniffing each others butts for "news." They're a pathetic, lost lot of idiots. God I hate the MSM.

Posted by: Bob Wolfe on November 4, 2009 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

"[W]e have demonstrated to the GOP that it must not take conservatives for granted. The GOP spent $900,000.00 on a Republican who dropped out and endorsed the Democrat. Were we to combine Scozzafava and Hoffman's votes, Hoffman would have won."

And if they had just butted out, Scozzafava wins in a landslide. And, they don't make everybody in the district mad at them, and probably half the state of NY angry as well. And they don’t show that the leadership of the Republican party are sycophants of the religious right and will dump on their own candidates to please somebody else's party.

The Hoffman debacle will leave some deep political scars for the Republicans to have to heal.

It will be interesting to see where the snake oil express stops next and what local politicians do in response. There is a good chance that in small communities the local political powers of both parties will now stand together to fight off the take over, even if it means pitching in for the other party’s candidate, as long as that candidate is local.

Posted by: Marnie on November 4, 2009 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

I find it hard to give much credit to right-wing declarations of victory anymore. The separation from reality has reached the point where everything, be it helpful, hurtful, or completely irrelevant, is claimed as a conservative win. Glenn Beck could be videotaped killing and eating a hobo and conservatives would claim it as a major victory, while the mainstream media would ask if Barack Obama's stated opposition to cannibalism is a mistake.

I see it as a comparative of IOKIYAR: Everything Is Good News For Republicans.

Posted by: Master Mahan on November 4, 2009 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Echoing the earlier comments... Owens is clearly a Blue Dog Democrat. The Daily Kos advocated voting for Scozzafava, as she was considered a "progressive" running on a repub ticket. That appears to be why the repubs dumped her and she then supported Owens. As was stated above, this is a heavily repub area and if you're running on the Demo ticket, you need to be at best a centrist Democrat.

I don't see this as any win for Progressives unless you consider that at least the winner is in the right party column.

Posted by: pencarrow on November 4, 2009 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

I agree it's egg on their face. But to be fair, imagine progressives had edged a Blue Dog Democrat (who opposed the public option, financial reform, cutting needless defense contracts) out of a congressional race and lost by a relatively narrow margin. It certainly would send the Democratic Party a message that we aren't to be taken for granted, and would encourage future candidates not just to pay us lip service. Am I missing something?

Posted by: clb72 on November 4, 2009 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

"Were we to combine Scozzafava and Hoffman's votes, Hoffman would have won. "

And if we combine Scozzafava and Owens' votes, Hoffman would have been buried.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on November 4, 2009 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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