8 a.m. ET: The polls are open this morning in upstate New York, New Jersey, Virginia and a handful of other regions, and while electoral predictions are all over the map, the most common sentiment is that this will be a good day for the red column and a bad one for blue.
How much do Tuesday's results matter? Obviously, it depends whom you ask. "The White House downplayed the national significance of the off-year elections, but Republicans, including GOP Chairman Michael Steele, portrayed them as referendums on Obama's presidency," reports USA Today. As for 2010 and 2012, the Wall Street Journal says "Republicans appear positioned for strong results in three hard-fought elections Tuesday. But isolated, off-year contests aren't always reliable indicators of what will happen in the wider federal and state races held in even-numbered years." Under the headline, "It Doesn't Mean Squat," Joshua Green writes, "Along with tarot cards and goat entrails, a lot of people believe they can divine hidden meaning from the results of off-year elections. ... I'm skeptical." The Associated Press judges the races to be an "early test of ... Obama's political influence," noting that by weighing in on the contests, "Obama raised the stakes of a low-enthusiasm off-year election season — and risked political embarrassment if any lost." George Stephanopoulos writes, "my hunch is that this year's angry voters just won't be denied which means a sweep for the GOP."
In New York's 23rd district, the majority of prognosticators give Doug Hoffman, the Republican-backed Conservative candidate, the advantage over Democrat Bill Owens. A Siena Research poll taken Sunday gave Hoffman a 41 percent to 36 percent lead, with 18 percent undecided. Mark Blumenthal writes that some on the left are looking at the polls and refusing to believe that Hoffman has an advantage. "Apologies to my Democratic friends for the pessimism, but I don't see it," he says. Nate Silver also surveys the surveys and concludes, "Owens would be about a 4:1 underdog. So I suppose I'm getting off the fence here and declaring Hoffman the favorite, although I wouldn't attach any precise probability estimate to it."
The Watertown Daily Times covers Joe Biden's last-minute visit for Owens, during which Biden suggested Hoffman had been "hand-picked" by Rush Limbaugh. (Fred Thompson later fired back at Biden: "You know, the vice president's job is to attend funerals. Maybe he came a day early.") The Washington Times says the contest has become a referendum on the direction of the Republican party, "[t]o the chagrin of some residents who say party labels take a back seat to jobs and protecting the local military base." The Washington Independent points out that 95 percent of Hoffman's donations came from outside the district.
In New Jersey, the gubernatorial contest between Jon Corzine and Chris Christie is close as can be. The final Pollster.com average of surveys has them tied exactly at 42 percent. Nate Silver runs through his (fascinating) 15 clarifying questions for close elections and decides: "Obviously, anybody's race, but I'd make Christie about the 4:3 favorite." Still confused? Let's ask the bookies what they think. Bloomberg reports that online bettors at Intrade have the race very tight, with 50 percent betting on Christie and 48 percent on Corzine. (The same site gave Robert McDonnell a 99 percent chance of winning in Virginia, and Hoffman a 70 percent chance.)
The Newark Star-Ledger says "Corzine and Christie are carrying the heavy weight of their political parties on their shoulders." The Philadelphia Daily News quotes one expert saying the campaign has been "about nothing," because "neither Corzine nor Christie has touched on the topic that pains New Jerseyans the most: property taxes." Which areas (or which exits) will determine the winner? "Cities like Newark and Camden have gotten a lot of attention in the race so far, as Mr. Corzine worked to drum up enthusiasm among core Democrats in urban neighborhoods. But many analysts say the contest is likely to be decided in the suburbs — as New Jersey elections usually are," the New York Times writes.
The clearest-cut contest is in Virginia, where McDonnell is the decisive favorite over Creigh Deeds. The only question appears to be the margin of victory; Pollster.com pegs McDonnell's final average lead at 14 points. "Polls show that Republicans, hungry after years of electoral defeats in Virginia, appear headed to vote in large numbers but that Democrats are unexcited about Deeds," the Washington Post reports. The Richmond Times-Dispatch notes the GOP also has wide leads in the contests for lieutenant governor and attorney general. Time writes: "For all the talk of Republican chaos and infighting in this off-year election, the GOP in Virginia seems to have found the formula for unifying its party and delivering a winning message. ... McDonnell is as conservative as they come: pro-life, pro-gun, antitax, pro–small government. But from the get-go his central message has been about jobs, and that has helped him come across as less threatening to moderates and independents in the state."
November 3, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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