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.