Sign of Life?

In this town, political victories are measured less in miles and more in feet and inches, especially for the Republican Party. They’re still reeling from the lashing they took in 2006, and many believed the same cudgel would hit them again on Tuesday. Yes, 2008 is when the “varsity” comes to play, but keep in mind the Republicans have scored some noteworthy victories that Democrats should be mindful of:

First, during the past month, three gubernatorial offices were up for grabs. Republicans went 2-for-3 in those contests, picking up Louisiana with the Bobby Jindal win and Gov. Haley Barbour easily winning reelection in Mississippi. Yes, Ernie Fletcher lost in Kentucky, but he ran a poor race from the beginning and never caught fire.

Then there were the Charlotte, N.C., and Indianapolis mayoral races. Republican Pat McCrory was reelected to a record-setting seventh term in the Queen City — that says more about his management style than his politics, but we all know these days that if you have an R behind your name, you’re in jeopardy. In Indianapolis, Greg Ballard overcame a 10-to-1 spending disadvantage to beat his opponent and head to city hall for his first term — quite an impressive display in the Midwest (watch out, Evan Bayh).

OK, you say, but what about the issues ... Armstrong, those are fluke victories, because the Democrats trounced Republicans in the Virginia state Senate this year. Not entirely accurate. Many Virginia voters were still hot under the collar over immigration, and the fact that Republicans in the majority there did nothing about it, opting instead to pass record tax hikes and confiscatory fines on in-state drivers. Those decisions finally came home to roost.

And keep in mind two key votes in New Jersey and Oregon. Not exactly dens of right-wing conservatism, both states rejected key liberal moves being pushed in Washington. New Jersey voters said no to advanced stem cell research and funding, while those in Oregon said they didn’t want to pay more in tobacco taxes for children’s health insurance.

Sound familiar? Yep, states other than Iowa and New Hampshire can be solid political bellwethers too ...