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Democrats and Republicans are jostling to glean messages from voters in a race for a U.S. House seat in far northern New York, as well as from contests for governor in New Jersey and Virginia. Republicans, increasingly optimistic, say the contests foreshadow trouble for President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party's ambitious agenda heading toward the 2010 congressional elections. "We will be looking very closely at the results in these three races and reminding Democrats of the message they send about the agenda that they are forcing on American taxpayers," said Paul Lindsay, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, which coordinates GOP House races. A Republican sweep in Tuesday's key contests would at minimum show that Democrats face much tougher political terrain than they did a year ago. GOP victories would also help the party's fundraising and candidate recruitment for 2010, providing backing for arguments that Republicans have the momentum, and that voters are turning against the Obama agenda.
Going back to 1989, one party swept the off-year gubernatorial elections five times. Three of those times, that party also won the following year's congressional elections; twice it did not. In 1993, Republicans Christie Todd Whitman in New Jersey and George Allen in Virginia captured their states' governor's mansions. The following year brought the dramatic Republican takeover of Congress. In 2001 gubernatorial races, Democrats Jim McGreevey in New Jersey and Mark Warner in Virginia swept to victory. The next year, Republicans gained seats in the House and Senate.
In June 2006, Republicans won a special House race in California, and Republicans crowed that the Democrats' much-ballyhooed momentum was a fantasy. But in the fall elections that year, Democrats captured 31 seats and retook the House for the first time in 12 years. "I don't think they say anything," Curtis Gans, director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate at American University, said of off-year elections. "The sample is too small and the issues are local."
Look out Democrats, 2010 may be a rude awakening for your over-reaching and arrogant agenda.