I'm sure everyone is quickly becoming tired of Republican gloating and the MSM echoing the Faux "News" meme that this election was a referendum on Obama. If any of them were to actually look at any exit polls, they'd see a clear majority said Obama had no effect, with another 20% saying they voted to show support for Obama. But don't let reality distract the right. As long as they remain distracted by this, they'll ignore the true lessons of this election and remain a minority party for longer.
There are three real lessons that I saw in these elections: extremism is a sure way to lose, names on the ticket are more important than names in Washington, and elections are more often lost than won. Please share yours in the comments.
Extremism is a sure way to lose
New York's 23th district is the strongest reflection of this. For those who missed it, in the Republican primary, DeDe Scozzafava won a strong majority. In response to her moderate views on gay marriage and taxes, the extremist wing of the Republican party backed a third party Conservative candidate, David Hoffman. This caused a schism in the vote which gave the Democrat, Bill Owens, a slight advantage. The conservative rancor was so strong, it drove Scozzafava from the race, not to endorse Hoffman, but to endorse the moderate Democrat, Owens. In the end, Owens won a seat that has been held by Republicans for about 130 years (only ten times longer than the 8 and 12 years since a Republican held the VA and NJ governorship). America is a moderate country; nearly 30% of citizens identify themselves as Democrats, about 20% as Republicans, leaving more than 50% identifying themselves as independent. Similar numbers are reflected along the conservative/liberal spectrum as well. Espousing extremist views is a sure way to drive the majority moderate/independent away from either side.
Names on the ticket are more important than names in Washington
As the exit polls I mentioned above show, Obama had no effect on 60% of New Jersians and 55% of Virginians. The remaining 40ish percent were split somewhat evenly for and against Obama and I have the feeling they would have voted this way with or without Obama. Meanwhile, New Jersy's Jon Corzine had a state-wide approval comparable to Bush/Cheney in 2008. In Virginia, only 47% of voters said they felt Creigh Deeds shared their views (61% said Bob McDonnell did).
Elections are more often lost than won
As I mentioned above, Governor Corzine's job approval rating was in the mid 20s throughout most of the campaign. Yet the primary message put out in his campaign ads were along the lines of "Chris Christie is corrupt too." Messages like this are don't fix your weakness and at times can highlight your own issues. If he had instead focused on his own successes as governor, he could have turned around his job approval numbers (possibly) and possibly won the vote. Similarly, Creigh Deeds largely didn't campaign for himself but against his opponent. Halfway through the campaign, a golden opportunity was dropped in his lap with the discovery of McDonnell's college thesis advocating against women's equality. This is great to highlight progressive, equal rights/equal pay agenda and is useful as one piece of a campaign. Instead, Deeds made this his entire campaign. As such, by the time the election rolled around, nearly two thirds of voters said the paper had no effect on their vote. Neither of these candidates brought strong ideas or principles to the table (although their opponents only brought the "taxes are too high" canard) which are what bring people to the polls to vote for candidates. This principle was also reflected in the 2004 and 2008 presidential campaigns. John Kerry failed to strongly advocate his own views and instead was largely a anti-Bush candidate in 2004 and John McCain threw away any opportunity he had by campaigning erratically without any clear personal message.