Posted by: Debby Durkee | May 20, 2010

Rove and Barnes on Tuesday’s races.

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Rove and Barnes on Tuesday’s races.

Karl Rove and Fred Barnes get there a little differently, but their takes on the Tuesday primary elections and the special election in Pennsylvania for deceased Democrat John Murtha’s seat  are similar. It had little to do with incumbency and more to do with the anti-Obama wave sweeping the nation. Less anti-incumbent and more anti-establishment. Both articles appear in the Wall Street Journal.

Rove: Election was anti-Obama.

…Voters settle on a candidate after using an algorithm that varies from person-to-person, contest-to-contest, and year-to-year. Tuesday’s election results reflect an anti-Washington, anti-Obama, anti-establishment feeling among voters, but they also reflect the candidates’ individual winning messages.

Take Kentucky’s GOP primary, where ophthalmologist and tea party activist Rand Paul won the Republican nomination to replace retiring Sen. Jim Bunning. Dr. Paul’s victory was a rejection of the Republican establishment, shrieked observers. He defeated Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who was supported by the state’s senior senator, Mitch McConnell. But Dr. Paul won with support from party regulars Cathy Bailey (finance chairman for both George W. Bush and Mr. McConnell), Kentucky State Senate President David Williams, and Mr. Bunning himself.

Dr. Paul’s emphasis on fiscal issues trumped Mr. Grayson’s emphasis on biography. The sluggish economy, combined with Mr. Obama’s budget-busting agenda, sparked a populist reaction that Dr. Paul tapped with attacks on deficits, spending and special interests.

…The defeat of Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter shows opportunistic politicians are rarely trusted or accepted. Mr. Obama’s endorsement in ads and appearances didn’t save Sen. Specter.

The GOP would be better off if Mr. Specter had won. The weaknesses that became apparent in the primary would have doomed him in the fall. The race now, pitting former GOP Congressman Pat Toomey against Congressman Joe Sestak, will be among the country’s hardest fought races.

Sitting Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln has been forced into a runoff election. She was favored by the Democrat establishment.    

Her predicament shows Democrats, especially in border and Southern states, are badly split over the Obama agenda. If Mr. Obama’s vaunted political operations couldn’t deliver for Mr. Specter and Mrs. Lincoln, what does it say about the fall?

Regarding the John Murtha seat left vacant by his recent death, which was won by a Democrat, here’s what Rove has to say:

In a district where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 137,000 voters, 62% to 29%, Mr. Critz also benefited from Gov. Ed Rendell’s clever decision to schedule the special election on the same day as party primaries.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says “This is the type of race [the] GOP has to win.” He is right, but just how many other Democrats will be running this year as pro-life, pro-gun, anti-ObamaCare, and against cap and trade?   Snip –

The wave that started last year is continuing to gain velocity, size and force. This week’s elections confirmed what the evidence has shown since last summer: Mr. Obama’s agenda is a political killer and his endorsement is of little help. If there is a big takeaway from what happened on Tuesday, that is it.

Read all of Karl Rove here:


Barnes: Not anti-incumbent, but anti-Obama’s ambitious agenda.

The idea that anti-incumbent fever, striking equally at Democrats and Republicans, is the defining feature of the 2010 election is as misguided as last year’s notion that President Obama’s oratory would tilt the nation in favor of his ambitious agenda. Yet the media, echoing the Obama White House, has adopted anti-incumbency as the all-purpose explanation of this year’s political developments.

Their latest (supposed) evidence: Mr. Sestak’s ouster of incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter. But incumbency, though it played a part, wasn’t the main reason Mr. Specter (who switched parties from Republican to Democrat last year) lost. After voting against the 80-year-old Mr. Specter in five elections dating back to 1980, a majority of Democratic voters in Pennsylvania couldn’t bring themselves to vote for him yesterday. They didn’t trust him.  Snip –

A bigger problem for (Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)) was a reputation as an unreliable vote for Democratic initiatives—Mr. Halter attacked her from the left—and polls consistently showed her badly trailing any Republican opponent. Snip –

What demolishes the notion of anti-incumbency as a scourge on both parties are the calculations of credible political analysts—Democrats and Republicans from Charles Cook to Jay Cost to Nathan Silver to James Carville—about the outcome of November’s general election. They believe dozens of congressional Democrats either trail Republican challengers or face toss-up races, while fewer than a handful of Republicans are in serious re-election trouble.  Snip –

…there was more to (Rand Paul’s) 59% to 35% victory than simply exploiting popular trends. Dr. Paul was by far the better candidate. He kept his most controversial views—opposition to the Iraq war, doubts about sending American troops to Afghanistan—largely under wraps. Instead, he sounded like a vintage 1994, Contract-with-America Republican, calling for term limits and a balanced budget amendment.

And Dr. Paul wasn’t shy about his support from tea party activists. They turned out to be anything but a stigma on his campaign, contrary to their characterization in the media. Without their fervent backing, he might have lost. That should be a lesson to other Republican candidates.

Regarding the loss of the Murtha seat to a Democrat, here’s Barnes’ take:

…(the Republican) candidate, businessman Tim Burns, lost badly to Mark Critz, a former Murtha aide. Mr. Burns failed to stir Republican turnout with his anti-Obama message. In contrast, Democratic turnout was buoyed by the furious Senate race between Mr. Specter and Mr. Sestak. Republicans insist the mix of voters will be different in the fall. We’ll see.

If there’s a Republican wave in November, Republicans will capture the Senate seats in Kentucky and Arkansas and probably in Pennsylvania as well. The most important political event of the week may have been the revelation that the Democratic Senate candidate in Connecticut, the state’s Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, had falsely claimed to be a Vietnam veteran. That gives a Republican a chance to win in Connecticut, too—and maybe even a Senate majority.

Read all of Fred Barnes here:


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  1. […] Rove and Barnes on Tuesday’s races. […]

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