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November 9, 2005
A Good Night For Democrats

Democrats executed a near-sweep in state elections last night, winning every contest except the mayor's race in New York City, where liberal GOP incumbent Michael Bloomberg's re-election has been a foregone conclusion for weeks. In the single bright spot for Republicans, Bloomberg won a fourth straight GOP victory in NYC (Rudy Giuliani also served two terms) and broke Giuliani's record margin of victory by beating the hapless Fernando Ferrer by 20 points.

Other than that lone accomplishment, the Republicans took it on the chin. As expected, the New Jersey governor's race went to Jon Corzine, but not before his ex-wife got a chance to take a couple of below-the-belt shots at Corzine at the last moment. Despite some polling showing GOP candidate Doug Forrester pulling into a dead heat, Corzine sailed to an easy 11-point victory over Forrester.

At best, the Republicans had only a longshot chance in New Jersey, but they should have been competitive in Virginia's gubernatorial race. Bush won Virginia just a year ago and the GOP controls the legislature and most of the statewide offices. However, outgoing two-term governor Mark Warner has built up tremendous popularity for the Democrats. In the end, Tim Kaine won by six points over Jerry Kilgore while the GOP candidates for Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General edged out victories over their Democratic counterparts.

These races went in expected directions for the most part, although the GOP thought they could retake Virginia's executive until the final few days. The real humiliation came three thousand miles away, where the once-Golden Boy Arnold Schwarzenegger suffered a humiliating defeat on an election he created for referenda he championed. Every single measure he sponsored and for which he vigorously campaigned went down to defeat, and most of them didn't come close to winning.

The one which managed a close showing required a 48-hour waiting period for minors seeking abortions, a measure which lost by 4.6%. Reform of teacher tenure lost by almost nine points, while the restriction on political use of union dues lost by seven. Arnold's redistricting reform, which would have taken redistricting away from the gerrymandering fools in the state Legislature and handed the process to a panel of unaccountable retired judges, lost by almost 20 points.

That kind of thumping will have the GOP hurting for months. It underscores the loss of mandate that Schwarzenegger has suffered since taking over the state in a wild recall election two years ago. He may still win re-election next year just based on his personal connection to the voters in California, but his platform just got a huge no-confidence hole blown into it by the electorate.

What does this mean for the midterms next year? It shows that the GOP can expect a tough time trying to hold their margins. They need to understand why they lost in Virginia most of all; they let the Democrats steal the center away from them. California may be a lost cause, but the lessons there will be to pursue incremental success and not swing for the fences every single time an issue comes up. Calling costly special elections doesn't help build an image of fiscal responsibility, either.

Best of all, it should wake the Republicans to the fact that the successes of the last three cycles will not last forever, especially if the party does not unite to work towards a clear message and responsible goals. Star power and ex-wives don't win elections, and in the end, we should all be grateful for that rather than disappointed.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 9, 2005 5:16 AM

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