Henican: There's what the voters did (and then what everyone else thinks it means)
Let me tell you a story – or a few of them. But I have to ask a question first.
What just happened here?
Did voters across America reject the young presidency of Barack Obama? Or were a few local races decided on local issues and little else?
Oh, the struggle for a post-election narrative!
Here’s another one: Did Mike Bloomberg’s 51,000-vote squeaker prove the power of money in politics – or its impotency? Bill Thompson did a whole lot better than anybody thought.
Every time an election is held, two results matter. There’s the obvious one, the one voters determine at their polling places, who won and who lost.
But the other result often matters just as much, sometimes even more, even in off-year elections like Tuesday’s. It’s the why of the election, the momentum going forward, the various lessons learned. All sides are inclined to claim victory in this race.
So it’s been this week.
In Chris Christy’s 5-point New Jersey win and in Bob McDonnell’s 18-point Virginia stomp fest, Republicans had high-profile successes to boast about. The Jersey victory was especially sweet, coming after several Obama visits and dispatching an unloved Democratic incumbent, Jon Corzine.
"The Republican renaissance has begun,” party chairman Michael Steele proclaimed yesterday.
But just as those words were tumbling from Steele’s lips, Democrats were tossing their own confetti in Upstate New York. Not only had Democrats won a congressional seat, District 23, that Republicans held for more than a century. A deep philosophical fissure had been revealed in Republican ranks – the hostility between the party’s moderate and adamant wings.
"We won,” said a jubilant Nancy Pelosi, citing that New York victory and a second in California. "From our standpoint, we picked up votes."
And so it will go all week and into next as competing assertions fold ever so slowly into accepted wisdom.
The Bloomberg millions: They seemed excessive, though even with it he won just barely.
The anti-gay vote in Maine: The Suozzi cliffhanger in Nassau County. The Spano drubbing in Westchester.
Find me an election.
I’ll tell you a story.