Election Day: The Right-Wing Spin Machine Revs Up

It looks like the conservative spin machine is firing up, looking for the most favorable ways to portray whatever today’s election results end up being. Let’s counteract their spin and look at what today’s major races might actually mean:

Virginia

It’s telling that conservatives are portraying VA—the one race they’re pretty much guaranteed to win—as today’s most important election. That’s right-wing logic for you—the races the GOP win are significant while any races they lose are insignificant.

Now, I’m not saying that a GOP win here wouldn’t mean anything—it’s always meaningful when a Governorship changes parties—but I don’t think it would be as significant as many Republicans will try to make it out to be.

As I showed yesterday, the VA Governor’s race isn’t a national bellwether, so a GOP win today doesn’t necessarily mean the GOP will win in 2010. There is no logical reason to conclude that a McDonnell victory would somehow erase all the gains Democrats have made in VA since 2001.

In fact, far from heralding a GOP resurgence, a McDonnell win could merely be the result of a candidate with a good campaign beating a candidate with a poor campaign.

Even though I voted for Deeds I have to say that he ran a pretty poor campaign. He took too long after the primary to get started; his messaging was muddled and negative; he put way too much stock in McDonnell’s thesis; and, most importantly, Deeds ran away from President Obama instead of embracing him.

Obama won significant amounts of new votes and support in 2008, turning VA blue for the first time since 1964.  And yet, Deeds failed to tap into those supporters, instead running the kind of mushy, weak campaign you would expect from a Democratic candidate circa 2002/2003.

So maybe a McDonnell win portends greater GOP gains. Or maybe it’s just a case of the better candidate prevailing in a local election. Nobody can say for sure and we should be wary of anyone who tries to.

New Jersey

I think a GOP win in New Jersey would be far more significant than a GOP win in VA, since NJ is a strong blue state and Corzine is the incumbent (as opposed to VA, where Deeds is merely a member of the incumbent’s party).

But, unlike VA, NJ is entirely up in the air and conservatives actually seem to be preparing for a narrow defeat.

How do we know? Well, just look at the right’s attempts to delegitimize Corzine: they’re inventing allegations of voter fraud, drawing convoluted Glenn-Beckian flowchart conspiracy theories, spreading highly-dubious and anonymously-sourced scare videos and claiming that the third-party candidate is a Corzine-funded spoiler designed to steal votes from Christie.

This is all highly telling–it’s the right grasping at straws to explain why a Republican win in VA would mean everything while a Democratic win in NJ would mean nothing (even though those two states have an equal/equally-poor track record as election bellwethers).

Since it’s hard to claim an impending Republican wave based on mixed election results, so expect the right to continue going all-out to delegitimize a Corzine victory.

NY-23

I think a Hoffman victory in NY-23 would be significant…that is, had Dede Scozzafava not dropped out. It would have been a big deal for a third-party candidate to have won enough support and money to beat both the Democratic and Republican candidates.

Yet, Scozzafava dropped out and the GOP establishment embraced Hoffman, making him the de facto GOP candidate (a Republican In Everything But Name, if you will). So now NY-23 is just a routine race between a liberal candidate and a conservative candidate.

And remember that this district is strongly Republican—it was previously represented by GOP Rep. John McHugh, who never garnered less than 63% of the vote from the district, and this part of NY has been represented by Republicans for more than a century.

In other words, a Hoffman win would be a dog-bites-man story: a Republican retired and was replaced by another Republican. Considering the roller coaster ride this special election has been, it’s become awfully boring in the final stretch.

So expect Republicans to claim that any election they win is proof of a GOP resurgence while any election they lose is entirely inconsequential.  In fact, even if the GOP wins all three major races today it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll win in 2010–a handful of off-year races do not bellwethers make (and a year is eternity in politics).

Just be sure to take all election analysis with a sizable grain of salt today.

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