Congressional Democrats seem to have two different ideas on what Tuesday's elections meant for their party, the Washington Post says. "[M]oderate and conservative Democrats took a clear signal from Tuesday's voting, warning that the results prove that independent voters are wary of Obama's far-reaching proposals and mounting spending, as well as the growing federal debt. Liberal lawmakers, meanwhile, said the party's shortcoming came in moving too slowly on health-care reform and other items that would satisfy a base becoming disenchanted with the failure to deliver rapid change in government."
Roll Call notes that moderates' opinions on health reform legislation didn't change because of the elections.
The New York Times front-pages, "Republicans emerged from Tuesday's elections energized by victories in Virginia and New Jersey, but their leaders immediately began maneuvering to avoid a prolonged battle with conservative activists over what the party stands for and how to regain power… Despite Mr. Hoffman's loss [in NY-23], many conservatives promised to press on with opposition to centrist Republican candidates. That vow intensified concerns among party leaders that the opportunities they see coming out of Tuesday's results could be dimmed by intramural battles over whether to reach for the political center or do more to motivate the base on the party's right."
The Washington Post adds that the GOP's "fortunes in next year's midterm elections may rest in its ability to harness a populist wave of voter discontent with Washington and government spending. But the surprising Democratic victory in the New York congressional election -- despite the intervention of conservative activists -- for a seat the GOP held for more than a century was sobering evidence that rallying behind conservative candidates may not be the answer."
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee said there's room in the Republican Party's tent for people like Dede Scozzafava, the resigned Republican nominee in the NY-23 special election, but added, "It doesn't mean I have to support all of them equally." On those with pro-choice and pro-same-sex marriage views, Huckabee said, "Can they be Republican? Yes. Will they get my support? No." However, Huckabee added that he is against third-party candidates, encouraging voters to pick [the party] that you like a little more than you like the other, that you hate the least, get involved in it, and change it."
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R), chairman of the Republican Governors Association, denied an ideological rift between conservative and moderate Republicans, but he said the national party must respect the will of voters in their choices for state Republican leaders -- rather than get involved to the level it did in New York's 23rd district special election. Speaking to voters across the country on a "comeback" conference call, Barbour said, "The news media, particularly the left, they want to act like there's some great war going on in the Republican Party between moderate Republicans and conservative Republicans." Regarding the NY-23 race, he said the "crime" there "was the state party chairman allowed a handful of party chairman to pick our nominee… It would have made me mad too if they had tried that in Mississippi."
Barbour encouraged voters to accept that Republican candidates in next year's 37 gubernatorial elections will not be one-size-fits all. "We have to realize we're not going to elect Haley Barbour governor of Vermont. They're going to elect a Republican governor less conservative than I am."
The Boston Globe's take on Tuesday: "Democratic moderates who will determine the fate of much of President Obama's domestic agenda heard an early warning from this week's off-year elections: Congress had better do something about the economy, or sitting lawmakers will lose their jobs in 2010."
Here's a piece by one of us that argues while Republicans got a much-needed boost and Democrats feel good about a congressional race in Upstate New York out of Tuesday night, all three races had much more to do with local issues.
More evidence of a tough climate for incumbent executives? In Long Island, "Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi was hanging onto his job Wednesday by a slim 237-vote lead - with thousands of paper ballots still uncounted. Suozzi took 118,111 votes in Tuesday's election, with GOP challenger Edward Mangano coming close with 117,874 votes, a preliminary tally showed."