Speaking Truth to Power

Jackie Gingrich Cushman
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Posted: Nov 05, 2009 12:00 AM

Instead of Valerie Jarrett's version of speaking truth to power, we now have our own.

Two governors' races were real wins for the Republican Party in this week's off-year elections. Republican Chris Christie won against the Democratic incumbent in New Jersey, and Republican Bob McDonnell won in Virginia, after eight years of a Democratic governor.

Why are these two races important? Because at a time when the Democratic Party is in power, the winners are Republicans.

Think of this as the Republican Party speaking truth to those that hold power in the White House.

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In New Jersey, Christie presented receptive voters with a clear departure from Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine. And in Virginia, McDonnell managed to oust Tim Kaine, whose party had long been in control of the governor's mansion.

Among the losers was President Obama, who was a big supporter and campaigner for both losing Democratic candidates. This is not good for him, or for the Democratic Party.

The White House and the Democratic Party will attempt to maintain their composure by assuring the public that off-year elections often go to the minority party.

But what they know and won't say is that it is always better to win than it is to lose. Do not doubt they are wishing they had won, while stating that they are not surprised by the losses.

At this point, they will be merely trying to cut their losses and spin the public's attention to a win.

The win they will spin to and the one the Democrats will crow about is New York's 23rd congressional district race.

This race was part soap opera, part reality show and totally confusing to many people. The Republican Party pick, Dede Scozzafava, was challenged on the right by Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. National Republicans soon weighed in on either side of the two candidates. Scozzafava, the more liberal candidate who was picked without grass-roots support, lost ground to Hoffman. She pulled herself out of the race last week, and in a wild move this weekend, she endorsed Democrat Bill Owens, who ended up winning the election.

Seriously -- a plot that could have come right out of Hollywood.

The result?

As of January, Democrats will control the House by 258 seats to 177 for Republicans. The race resulted in one more Democratic vote for the upcoming vote on health care.

This Democratic win happened in a congressional district that has had a Republican congressman since the Civil War. Democrats will tout this particular win as proof that the Republican Party is engaged in an internal battle, a civil war, for the party's heart and soul -- that it is fighting for its very future.

The truth?

In Virginia, McDonnell focused his campaign on the economy -- specifically jobs, recovery and decreasing the deficit without raising taxes. Think of it as standard fiscal conservatism. Let's all get to work, and together we can increase the size of the pie for all. This is an inclusive, optimistic message, and it worked.

In New Jersey, Christie's election represents the first GOP gubernatorial victory since 1997, when then-Gov. Christie Whitman was re-elected.

On Tuesday night, when Edison Research asked voters in an exit poll what was most important, they pointed overwhelmingly to the economy and jobs. When asked, "How worried are you about the direction of the nation's economy in the next year?" voters -- regardless of whom they had voted for -- answered overwhelmingly that they were worried.

This should make Obama worried.

As Democratic campaign strategist James Carville said in 1992, "It's the economy, stupid."

So then, what does the outcome of New York 23rd congressional race prove?

Simply this: If there are three candidates, and one of the candidates of a mainstream party pulls out and throws her weight to the candidate of the other party, then the other side is probably going to win.

Both New Jersey and Virginia races were run on the economy: more jobs, lower taxes, fiscal conservatism and limited government. These are the bread-and-butter, core issues of the Republican Party and conservatives. Christie and McDonnell won because they represent what Americans want: an increased focus on the economy, a growing economic pie that all can participate in and take part of, a better vision of the future.

Don't believe the spin. Final tally for the night: Republicans won two and had one unforced error, resulting in their opponent winning.

Clear choices lead to good decisions.