Last Tuesday's Elections

I’ve waited a few days before commenting on Tuesday’s elections. The pundits are still punditing, and they disagree on the significance of what took place. Now that’s a surprise. I don’t know if I qualify as an official pundit or not—not sure I really want the title—but I would like to offer some thoughts on what transpired.

The obvious loser, a point on which all agree, was Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter.

The 80-year-old Specter [on the left] lost the Democratic nomination for another term in the Senate. His opponent [on the right] was Rep. Joe Sestak. This is a particularly sweet loss in Republican eyes because Specter, who was a lifelong Republican, last year switched parties. He knew he would probably lose the Republican nomination. Well, now he has the distinct dishonor of being rejected by both parties. As far as Republicans are concerned, this was a well-earned defeat.

When Specter bailed out of the Republican Party, he left the door wide open for former Rep. Pat Toomey to receive the nomination, which he achieved handily. Toomey lost the nomination to Specter six years ago. Sen. Rick Santorum, the other Pennsylvania Republican senator at that time, chose to back Specter even though Toomey was much closer to Santorum’s beliefs. He thought he had to be loyal to someone who had previously supported him, but now Santorum admits that was a mistake.

Toomey used to be president of the Club for Growth, a pro-free enterprise organization that has put its money and its mouth behind candidates around the nation who agree with its agenda. The one misstep he has made, my opinion, was to portray Mike Huckabee as a fiscal liberal. Those camps are not on good speaking terms. However, on economic policy, Toomey is solid.

Ironically, even though Specter’s defeat was a joyful occasion for Republicans, the nomination of Sestak will make this a tougher race for Toomey. He was projected to beat Specter rather easily; it’s much closer with Sestak. The race will be the classic conservative vs. liberal matchup. Are Pennsylvanians finally fed up enough with the Obama policies not to elect someone who voted for everything the president has wanted?

Kentucky offered a surprise, although by election day it was no longer considered a big upset, when Rand Paul, son of perennial presidential candidate Ron Paul, decisively beat the Republican establishment candidate Trey Grayson.

Grayson had every endorsement within the traditional Republican machine, but couldn’t pull it off. Paul was the candidate of the Tea Party, along with high-profile support from Sarah Palin.

What does this mean? At least in one place the Tea Party has scored a major victory. Establishment Republicans need to learn a valuable lesson from this: a lot of people are not prepared to go to battle for candidates who are not on the frontlines with them. Can Paul win in November?

He already got himself into a controversy over the Civil Rights Act of 1964, expressing concern that it got the government too involved in decisions made by private businesses. That concern is legitimate; he was not advocating racial discrimination. The media, naturally, has turned this into a conflagration. Will he weather this storm? Will he be more careful where he accepts interviews? This one was with MSNBC, notorious for its left-wing slant. We will see.

Back to Pennsylvania for the final election I’ll highlight today. This one was different in that it wasn’t a primary, but a special election to replace congressman John Murtha, who died in February. Murtha, at the time of his death, was highly controversial. He had accused American soldiers of atrocities without evidence, had voted for everything on Nancy Pelosi’s agenda, and was considered by many to be the king of pork in the House.

Murtha’s former director of economic development, Mark Critz, ran for and won his old boss’s seat. This was a blow to Republicans, who thought they had a great opportunity to take this seat since John McCain had won this district in 2008.

Democratic pundits are showcasing this election as a portent for November. See, they say, there is no big swing away from us. However, they are covering up some rather significant information. Critz ran as a pro-life, pro-gun candidate. He also said he would not have supported the healthcare bill. Now, I don’t know if he’s really telling the truth on any of those issues, but when he put himself forward on that platform, it was hard to distinguish him from the Republican candidate, Tim Burns.

Is this really a bellwether vote, signifying what will happen in November? Or is it merely an anomaly, given the circumstances of this election? I tend to think it’s the latter, but regardless, it is a wake-up call to Republicans who thought November would be a cakewalk.

Remember President Dewey, anyone?