MU Republicans campaign for Christie, McDonnell in NJ, VA races

The GOP won both governor races and the Democrats won two house seats.

Twenty-one MU students traveled to Virginia to work as campaign volunteers in two gubernatorial elections some say could predict a major shift in political opinion for the 2010 midterm congressional elections.

The students headed to Virginia by bus as part of the College Republicans National Task Force. The effort was part of the Republican campaigns for governor in Virginia and New Jersey, and the party won both races Tuesday.

In New Jersey, Republican Chris Christie defeated incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine, and in Virginia, Republican Bob McDonnell trounced Democrat Creigh Deeds by 17 points. Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine did not run because of term limits.

Missouri College Republicans Chairman Jonathan Ratliff said the students made phone calls and worked to build up Election Day momentum for the Republican candidates in both the New Jersey and Virginia races.

He said the Republican victories in those states, which President Barack Obama won during his 2008 presidential run, represent a referendum on the president's policies.

"This is a clear sign that the American people are tired of the era of big government and how this administration is running things," Ratliff said.

The GOP leadership on the national level trumpeted Tuesday's victories in similar fashion, with Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele declaring the start of a "Republican renaissance," after three consecutive elections marked by large Democratic victories.

Republicans and some members of the news media have said the gubernatorial victories could foreshadow Democratic losses in the 2010 congressional midterm elections.

Democrats were quick to try and defuse the victories as small wins driven mostly by local issues. Democratic National Committee spokesman Derrick Plummer said the losses were not unexpected because those states have a history of electing governors from the party opposite that in control of the White House.

"You're talking about off-year elections that were decided on local issues," Plummer said. "So I think they are bad predictors of elections to come."

Plummer said the most significant race was for the House seat in New York State's 23rd congressional district. That race was until recently a low-key contest between Democrat Bill Owens and moderate Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava.

Last week, the race gained attention as Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman picked up the endorsements of several key Republican figures, such as former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who were displeased with Scozzafava's support of abortion rights and ties to the voting group, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

Scozzafava dropped out of the race Saturday and threw her support behind Democrat Owens, whose victory put Democrats in control of that district for the first time since the 1870s.

Plummer said the outing of the establishment Republican candidate by a more conservative third party candidate was a more significant sign of change among the political parties.

"The moderate candidate was literally pushed out of the race by the Teabaggers," Plummer said, referring to Republican figures who supported nationwide anti-tax protests in April.

The Democrats also won a congressional special election in California, as Democrat John Garamendi defeated Republican challenger David Harmer in the state's 10th district, near the Bay Area.

Gerald Pomper, a political science professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said the gubernatorial races were not at all predictive of future elections and voters were lashing out at the closest political targets because of state-level issues anger. He said the Democrats could still win handily in 2010.

"It seems next year's elections really depend on two things: the state of the economy and whether the Democrats have a reputation for getting things done in this term," Pomper said.

— Gregory Zajac contributed to this story.

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