LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — On a conference call with some of the conservative leaders who’d backed Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman’s upstart campaign in NY-23, I asked for a response to an uncomfortable argument about the results. Hoffman and the outside groups who backed him tried very hard to link Democrat Bill Owens to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The Hoffman campaign, as pictured below, posted on its door some of Owens’s handouts linking the Democrat to Obama. And some conservatives also made a play for a House seat in California, talking tough about polls that showed Pelosi unpopular throughout the state. So if Tuesday was a referendum on congressional Democrats, didn’t they win? Didn’t conservatives lose?
“Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are two of the most unpopular people in American politics,” said Gary Bauer, who endorsed Hoffman early on. “I think they can become potent symbols in the 2010 election. At the end of the day, however, I think it’s important for Republicans not to just say ’send a message to Nancy Pelosi’ or ’send a message to Harry Reid,’ but rather to remind people how a Republican Congress will be different than what they’re seeing right now.”
Nonetheless, as Brian Beutler points out, the immediate impact of the House victories is that the Democratic conference in the House will rise from 256 to 258. That gives the party more breathing room on a health care vote. And it’s hard to underscore just how much Republicans were hoping that a Hoffman victory, or a more long-shot victory by David Harmer in California, would strike fear into conservative Democrats worried about their own re-elections. Republicans have been messaging today about Governor-elect Bob McDonnell’s landslide margins in vulnerable Virginia House seats won by Democrats last year, but Democrats generally understand that McDonnell was the beneficiary of a bumbling Democratic campaign against him. The Democratic House victories give the party some breathing room.
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