Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Reports of the Death of the GOP Are Somewhat Exaggerated

It's been popular since the election to pronounce the death of the Republican Party as a national force.  Democrats have claimed that they own the West Coast, the Northeast, and the Middle Atlantic, and some even go as far as to claim the Midwest as solidly Democratic.  They usually drag out this map that shows that for most of the country, the trend showed many more votes for Obama in 2008 than Kerry in 2004.  And they have some evidence in their favor.  After all, there are no longer any Republican Congresscritters in the Northeast.  I've even been guilty of this, saying that the Republican Party's focus for the next four years should be on growing grassroots networks, and not really worrying about major elections.  I wholly endorse the 435-district strategy, but I have thought of it more as a very long-term plan than most have. 
But there might be another explanation for these trends.  It not be realignment at all, but a one-year response to a much better Democratic candidate than Republican.  Evidence for this:
First the weak evidence: In yesterday's Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman election, the Republican outperformed McCain by 10%, is 1200 votes behind, and still has an outside chance of pulling the race out once all the absentee ballots and provisional ballots are counted.  Now, normally a Fairfax County election wouldn't mean much beyond Fairfax County, but with an RNC Chairman in Maryland and a DNC Chairman in Virginia, this was a bit of proxy battle.
Now the strong evidence: A Quinnipiac poll shows that Republican Chris Christie, former US Attorney, leads Democrat Governor Jon Corzine, 44%-38%, in very early polling for the New Jersey Governor's race.  Cristie doesn't even have the nomination yet and he has a strong lead over an incumbent Democrat in a state that Obama won by nearly 15%.  The New Jersey and Virginia governor's races are often bellwethers for the strength of the national Parties in the first post-Presidential years, and both states have been claimed as solidly Democratic by Democrats.  We'll definitely keep an eye on them.

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