Commentary Magazine


Reading the Election Results

Obama ignored the Tea Party movement. He ignored polls on health-care reform. He ignored the election results in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts. And last night’s elections confirmed that now anyone associated with Washington insiderism and big-government spending is imperiled.

Arlen Specter proved that expediency and convictionless politics — as well as clinging to Obama — aren’t going to cut it with voters. Democrats wanted a dependable liberal and got one in Joe Sestak. Obama took yet another shot — showing that his political judgment is lacking and that any candidate who wraps his arms around the president is going to take a beating. In the end it wasn’t even close, with Sestak beating Specter by more than 7 points. It was an embarrassing end for an embarrassing political turncoat whose sole principle was his own political survival. Specter is finally out of the hair of both Democrats and Republicans. I wonder how he’ll vote on Elena Kagan now — who can tell? And Sestak will now have to answer some tough questions on Israel.

In Kentucky, Rand Paul embarrassed the Republican minority leader, Mitch McConnell, who backed Rand’s opponent. It is a big win for the Tea Party movement and the fiscal conservative message. Paul also will face scrutiny on his foreign-policy views (he opposed the Iraq war). Again, if candidates want to win, they better convincingly paint themselves as outsiders.

Blanche Lincoln barely edged out Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, the darling of the left, but didn’t come close to the 50 percent mark needed to avoid a runoff, gathering less than 45 percent. If she makes it through the runoff, she has an uphill fight just to cement the Democratic vote. Her squishy moderation proved unappealing, and her stalwart defense of ObamaCare didn’t help her a bit. It seems that even for Democrats, ObamaCare is nothing to crow about.

And in the Pennsylvania 12th, the Democrats held John Murtha’s seat with a skilled candidate who ran a well-polished campaign. (Politico notes: “Republicans were quick to point out that Critz ran on a conservative platform, highlighting his opposition to abortion and to the health care reform legislation.”) There can be no better sign of Obama’s toxic impact on his party than the fact that Democrat Mark Critz survived by running against ObamaCare. And he was smart enough to keep Obama out of the district and bring Bill Clinton in to campaign with him. It’s a reminder that despite trends, specific candidates and campaigns matter. Perhaps Clinton — another irony — will be called on by Obama to save more seats and go where Obama would do more harm than good.

Big winners: the Tea Partiers, conviction politics, anti-Washington candidates, and fiscal conservatism. Big losers: Obama, Democratic incumbents, big spenders, and endorsements by office holders. Democrats who haven’t ingested the Obama Kool Aid will — or should — start fretting about less-than-stellar candidates. Many of them are going to lose in November.