Winners and Losers in the 2009 Elections

President Obama and the GOP establishment count among the winners

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The results from yesterday's much-watched elections are in: Republicans won the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey, Mayor Michael Bloomberg secured New York City, gay marriage in Maine was defeated, and Democrat Bill Owens eked out a surprisingly victory in New York's 23rd Congressional district. But what do these elections mean for the national political stage? Who won yesterday and who lost?

  • President Obama Over Critics The Guardian's Michael Tomasky argues that NY-23, where the Democrat won, was the only race about national issues and Obama. "The district voted narrowly for Obama in 2008 but hasn't sent a Democrat to Congress in more than a century. Late polling was relatively close, but it showed Hoffman ahead, and conservative Palinites across the country were licking their chops - this result, they said, will show that America is fed up with Obama's socialist agenda," he writes. "In sum, a good Republican night, but you can bet that Hoffman result, which came in after midnight, darkened their moods considerably. It was the only major race in which the candidates were arguing about what's going on in Washington. The guy who runs that town still is not as despised as the right wing thinks he ought to be."
  • GOP Over a New Conservative Party Conservative blogger Erick Erickson disavows the idea that a third, Conservative party could enter the national fray. "There has all of a sudden been a huge movement among some activists to go the third party route. We see in NY-23 that this is not possible as third parties are not viable. Third parties lack funding and ability for a host of reasons. Conservatives are going to have to work from within the GOP. The GOP had better pay attention." Liberal columnist David Corn agrees that the anti-establishment wing of the Republican Party, led by such figures as Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, seems in trouble in the wake of this electoral defeat.
  • Centrists Over Purists The New Republic's John B. Judis notes that the successful Republicans self-branded as centrists. "In New Jersey and Virginia, the gubernatorial candidates ran to the center. Christie is a moderate, and McDonnell at least pretended to be. And as a result, they got the swing vote of independents and moderates. In New York-23, a diehard conservative backed by rightwing groups repudiated the center and lost to a neophyte Democratic candidate who probably could not have beaten Scozzafava in a one-to-one contest. Democrats have reason to worry about candidates like McDonnell--particularly if the unemployment rate continues in 2010 to undermine Obama's standing among voters.
  • Gay Marriage Opponents Over Supporters Rod Dreher thinks Maine's defeat of same-sex marriage rights indicates a consistent trend. "Unless I'm missing something, in the 31 states in which voters had a say on whether or not gay marriage was going to be the law of the land, they all rejected it. Every single state," he writes. "Honestly, folks, I understand the case for same-sex marriage, though I don't agree with it, but look, if you're reduced to having to tell the public that they have no right to be consulted about the radical redefinition of a bedrock social and cultural institution, then you have a big, big problem."
  • 2012 Democrats Over 2010 Democrats The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder suggests that the White House, which did little to help Virginia and New Jersey races, has its eyes on 2012. "The White House's time horizons are longer than and different than the time horizons of House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates. It was more important for, say, Creigh Deeds, to get a health care bill passed by August than it was for President Obama. Obama's building a strong re-election coalition in 2012, but it's going to be frustrating for Democrats in the short term. Obama's approval rating in New Jersey was 57%," he writes. "It's very hard for Democrats to simultaneously turn out the Obama Coalition (younger, more liberal, more minority voters) and suburban independents (particularly older, particularly men)."
  • Nancy Pelosi Over Blue Dogs Matthew Yglesias points out that there will be two more Democrats in the House of Representatives (the other Dem fills a Californian vacancy). "Probably not huge policy implications of this, but it's a modest shift to the left of the balance of power in the House. Nancy Pelosi now has an easier time rounding up 218 votes for a health care bill, for example, and each and every Blue Dog has his or her individual leverage over the process reduced."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.