Nehring, other GOP chairs discuss party’s future

California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring is headed for New York City, where he’ll be holding a sort of summit meeting tomorrow with the GOP chairs from New York, Florida, Ohio, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Wisconsin to map out the party’s strategy for 2010.

To hear many tell it, they’re convening at the end of a great week for the GOP. New Jersey’s Democratic incumbent governor and Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee got their clocks cleaned, to be sure, but it sort of seems this merely proves the Democratic base won’t come out for what they see as crappy candidates.

Jon Corzine came into New Jersey’s governor’s office in 2006 under an ethical cloud and spent his entire term with low approval ratings after a showdown with fellow Democrats that resulted in a state government shutdown, an unpopular plan to lease out the state’s toll roads, budget cuts for state universities, nomination of a state Attorney General who soon had to resign in an ethics scandal, and more. His administration was a car wreck – literally. Polls going into the election showed massive voter disapproval of his job performance, while Republican Chris Christie – although not a great campaigner – fared better. Corzine discovered that money can’t buy you love.

In Virginia, younger and minority voters who flocked to the polls for Obama last year didn’t do so for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Creigh Deeds; Democrats couldn’t turn out their base. But before that’s blamed on Obama, consider that although Obama endorsed and campaigned for Deeds, Deeds actually ran against much of Obama’s liberal agenda – against cap-and-trade, against a public health-care option, against the Employee Free Choice Act, against several issues important to Latinos. And exit polls showed 56 percent of Virginia voters said Obama wasn’t a factor in their vote, 24 percent said their vote was meant as a swipe against Obama and 17 percent said it was meant as a show of support for him – so only about one in four voters had an anti-Obama sentiment. (That number was even lower in New Jersey.)

Also, New Jersey and Virginia are the only states that pick their governors in the years right after presidential elections, and Virginia has picked governors from the party opposite the president’s since the Carter Administration.

Meanwhile, a Democrat won New York’s 23rd Congressional District for the first time since before the Civil War – which seems fitting, as it was a Republican Party civil war that made this win possible.

And that civil war isn’t just in one district in the far reaches of upstate New York; the California Court of Appeal just this morning sent back to Alameda County Superior Court a revived lawsuit over control of the county’s GOP committee.

This, I’ll bet, is what Nehring and his fellow chairs will most want to discuss tomorrow – how to move their party forward without the moderate-versus-conservative infighting and undercutting that threatens to tear it apart.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • John W.

    Excellent analysis. Much better than the various cable network pundit panels election night. Nobody is saying the Dems don’t have challenges in 2010. Some self-inflicted; others not. But neither the Dem House wins nor the statehouse losses say much about 2010. Even without the crummy economy, Deeds and Corzine would have still been in trouble. It’s amazing that Corzine came as close to winning as he did. Statehouse races normally are not about national politics. Tuesday night was no exception. Congressional races are about national politics, and the Dems won the only two such races Tuesday. If there had been no governor races Tuesday, the pundits would be pointing to the upstate NY and CA House races as fresh evidence of a ongoing GOP meltdown. That would have been BS too.

  • Joan Clendenin

    There is over analysis of the Nov 3 election. There was something for everyone that night. The Republican leaders are right to start with the strategy now. What they have to do is plan for the post primary activities. The national folks have to stay out of our primary campaigns. Let the voters decide who faces Boxer and others around the country. We see what a mess the state leaders made of the NY-23 CD. That’s unacceptable. Voters don’t always make the wisest choice among candidates but that’s the game and it should be played out fairly.