Weigel's write-up from NY-23:
Hours before the polls closed, Hoffman backers were echoing the pundits’ spinthis race would be a referendum on President Obama, and a victory for Hoffman would put the brakes on health care reform by making Democrats worry about challenges to their re-elections in 2010. As a Hoffman victory became more and more remote, the rhetoric changed. The message became the message of two weeks ago. This election wasn’t about showing Republicans that conservatives could win. It was about showing Republicans that they couldn’t win without conservatives.
Nate Silver on Maine:
I think we have to seriously consider whether there is some sort of a Bradley Effect in the polling on gay rights issues, although one of the pollsters (PPP, which had a very bad night in NY-23) got it exactly right. As for the model, I think I'll need to look whether the urban-rural divide is a significant factor in a state in addition to its religiosity: Maine is secular, but rural. At the end of the day, it may have been too much to ask of a state to vote to approve gay marriage in an election where gay marriage itself was the headline issue on the ballot. Although the enthusiasm gap is very probably narrowing, feelings about gay marriage have traditionally been much stronger on the right than the left, and that's what gets people up off the couch in off-year elections.
It’s never a best-case for the GOP when a Democrat wins, but by keeping Dede Scozzafava out of the seat, the GOP has the chance to win this seat back in a year with a better candidate perhaps Hoffman, perhaps another Republican who shares core principles of limited government and fiscal conservatism. Dislodging an incumbent Republican would have been considerably more difficult, and a unified GOP should win this district especially given the signals sent everywhere else to Democrats.
I have said all along that the goal of activists must be to defeat Scozzafava. Doug Hoffman winning would just be gravy. A Hoffman win is not in the cards, but we did exactly what we set out to do crush the establishment backed GOP candidate.
Would Hoffman have been a more reliable Republican vote than Scozzafava? Probably. But Owens, if he’s anything like the vast majority of his future colleagues, will almost certainly vote with the Democrats more than 90% of the time; even the most “disloyal” Republicans only break from their party around 35% of the time while the vast majority only defect less than 10% of the time. In other words, conservatives have probably traded a reasonably Republican vote in the House for a reliably Democratic one, which in the grand scheme of things is not likely to be smart politics.
What is more encouraging to me is that the wins by Christie and McDonnell show that competent center-right candidates interested in governance and all those “parochial” local issues can tap into voter discontent and win electoral victories. Hoffman’s possible defeat suggests that campaigns dominated by the presence of national activists, empty sloganeering and indifference to local interests may not gain traction even in those districts that are traditionally inclined to favor the politics of someone like Hoffman. Those of us who would like to see Democratic domestic agendas thwarted without empowering the Palins of the world may have managed to get exactly the results we would wish to have.
Pundits have made much of the fact that the country is in a populist mood these days. The populism they are referring to is generally understood to be more right than left. But if an upshot of this mood is declining tolerance for the practice of people buying political office with their own money, then that's one (minor) thing for liberals to celebrate on an otherwise lousy night.
I think the temptation to read too much into [Bill Owens win] is probably to be resisted. The central dynamic was locals against outsiders, not liberal against conservative.
[T]hese races demonstrate that Republicans can win even with all the damage to the brand suffered in recent years given both an opening and a solid candidate.
Will Republicans do Obama a big favor by nominating a crop of Hoffmans for 2010?