Video: Happy GOP boss

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    >> you have to be pleased about what happened. what happened?

    >> assume the heisman position. there we go. that's my moment.

    >> yeah, what happened last night?

    >> i think what happened last night, certainly joe and i have talked about it before and others, america through the voices of those folks in new jersey and virginia had something to say. it was particularly tough for co corzine because he could not take the last four years of his term and point it in a way of success for people as they were looking at unemployment and forecloses, and they just wanted to go a different way. and new jersey , that was a huge thing to have happen.

    >> i was very aggressive in my line of questioning with tim kaine . we brought the crazy man here, lawrence o'donnell.

    >> michael you got wiped out on the congressional races, and you had a winnable one in california and you had one that you thought you had locked up, new york 's 23rd, but you and sarah palin and the national republicans went up and ruined it for the republicans. michael , don't you personally have a lot to apologize for in the way you lead your party to disaster in the 23rd, losing it for the first time in history? you lost it for the first time in history! how did you do that?

    >> i will start by apologizing for allowing you to ask me a question in the first place.

    >> read the first amendment sometime.

    >> number one, i don't apologize for anything. last night was a great night for the republican party . we win races and lose races. in the past two or three cycles we have been losing more than we have been winning. a lot of folks like yourself will pick apart at the bones of 23. god bless you. have fun. i hope you find gristle to chew on. regardless of who won in that district, they will turn around and have to start campaigning again.

    >> you made the 23rd the most congressional district in the country. the democrats did not do it, and you lost it and you led your party to a disastrous loss --

    >> if it makes you feel better, have it it. i will shut up and listen to you. you have your talking points from the dnc and you roll them out and have fun with it. you will not take this high away from me because it's hard work for this party to get back and now we can win in a state like new jersey . focus on that, lawrence .

    >> all right. now -- mika, as i was saying before, i am sure and i need to ask michael , if i gave you the choice of winning a congressional race in upstate new york , for the governorship of new jersey --

    >> it's a no-brainer. that's what lawrence failed to understand.

    >> new york 23 was a little bit of a mess. there are, michael steele , things to be learned from it. what are they?

    >> you don't have a small group of people pick your nominee, seven or 10 or 11 county chairman pick a nominee for a district that is mismatched. yeah, we understand that. the national party doesn't get to make those choices. we don't pick our nominees, and either through the process we saw in new york , that way or we have a primary. i would recommend a primary because that way the very people lawrence is talking about in terms of the folks coming in would have a chance to say what they need to say.

    >> michael , if there were an election, a primary in new york 23, i suspect hoffman nor scozzafavas would have won that election.

    >> yeah, next year there will be a primary and another general election , and then lawrence will harp on that because it probably won't be right, but i expect that from him.

    >> mike barnicle , you have a question for mike murphy .

    >> yeah, mike. chairman steele was just talking about new york 23. yesterday we had tim pawlenty . during the course of the interview, he refused to give a yes or no answer to olympia snowe fit the contours of his republican party . so my question to you, what does the republican party do with the various decisions that occurred in new york 23 in terms of going forward with candidates?

    >> well, i come here this morning with one great advantage over governor pawleny. and last night, we had a very pragmatic conservative with a great message the whole party could learn, and then we had a specialized train wreck that is a product --

    >> i worked in new york state politics, and we still have a lot of guys in jogging suits, and they are horrible at it. the national party gets caught because they have to bookup the local party . and then there is cheap heat and press and the whole thing was a train wreck . and all new york politics are not local but they are shakespearen and personal. and a year from now, that republican district will -- if we can get the nomination thing together, which we totally screwed up this time.

    >> yeah, michael steele , i did not hear anything after he said big guys in jogging suits, but new york state republican party has been dysfunctional this year, has it not?

    >> yeah, they had issues there. they have a new chairman, who already hit the ground. he came into the process way after all of the stuff started to unfold. i think he is going to have a strong hand on pulling the party together, keeping it focused on the idea of winning elections, and i am looking forward to working with him on that. he summed it up perfectly.

    >> michael , did you just agree with tim or --

    >> well, every footprint of the party is different from region to region and county to county. i cannot win in the northeast with somebody that would be a better candidate sooted in the south, and i cannot win in the west with a candidate better sooted in the northeast. so i am looking for my candidates where they are, and i want to lift them up because they represent those districts. and olympia snowe works there for her, and she may not translate in south carolina , because she works in maine.

    >> congratulations, michael steele .

    >> assume the heisman position.

    >> read about the congressional races that happened yesterday --

    >> oh, man.

    >> two more votes for obama health care just got elected.

    >> does he work for the obama administration?

    >> if you were a democrat he would be yelling at you to say you want to socialize medicine . that's what he does.

    >> mike murphy , let's talk about the race that surprised me the most, new jersey . i predicted that christie was going to win, but i always thought in the end that the new jersey democratic operation --

    >> but you went there. your prediction was right.

    >> how did you know?

    >> i have a lot of experience in jersey . i just know that, you know, corzine has been in trouble for a year. often what happens when you have an incumbent in trouble, it looks like the challenger would be held under water. a lot of republicans were worried about the campaign and i did not think that christie ran a good campaign. and i always thought daggett, the wine and cheese candidates would surge early and collapse the last week, because his own foet which was an anti- corzine vote was not viable in the end. i will give christie credit. he won bigger, and did better than i thought. working class , and culturally conservati conservative. the big democratic machine could not turn it out, and normally they can, and that was a formula for a great victory last night for christie .

    >> as usual, there was a lot of talk about the democratic turnout machine. you have run successfully republican candidates, and what does it need to work or does it just not work?

    >> lawrence , that was my favorite question that i have gotten in the last 24 hours . i flew in from l.a. last night and i get to the hotel to watch the returns, i just heard turnout, turnout, turnout. that's important but it's less of a function especially in the modern technology of machinery, and also it doesn't talk about where the voters' hearts are. people a year ago in new jersey and northern virginia , the swing areas, they changed their vote. it was not that somebody's vote did not show up, but the existing vote changed its mind.

    >> are you saying the old politics, that's dying, and this is more about how you move voters.

    >> yeah, it's dinosaur stuff. if you look at the data, there has been a 20, 30 point shift. it's not all about obama by any means, and a lot of it is localized. voters can change their mind. and if i were a white house worker this morning, i would be worried and change the spin.

    >> last night's big election results coming up in the roundtable coming up.

By Political Reporter
NBC News
updated 11/4/2009 4:23:55 PM ET 2009-11-04T21:23:55

The 2009 gubernatorial elections provided a much-needed momentum boost for Republicans after back-to-back election cycle drubbings.

But the GOP victories in New Jersey and Virginia don’t necessarily tell us all that much about how the party will fare in next year’s midterm elections: Gubernatorial races generally say less about the national dynamic than they do local issues, and that's certainly true this year.

In New Jersey, Chris Christie demonstrated that under the right circumstances the GOP can be successful in a blue state. He pulled off the win by capitalizing on the state’s troubled economic environment.

New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the country, and the ousted millionaire Jon Corzine did not lower them as he promised. The state’s unemployment rate is the second highest in the Northeast, and like almost every other state in the country, the Garden State had a major budget crisis.

Corzine needed everything to go right — and a lot of luck — in this campaign, and it almost did.

First, there was his opponent, Christie, who was almost done in by his inability to impress with his not-ready-for-prime-time persona, some strategic messaging errors and lack of substantive, detailed plans — particularly on how he would reduce those property taxes. (Restoring rebates is not enough.)

That opened the door for the rise of an independent candidate, Chris Daggett, who began to pull votes from the Republican. But the Republican Governors Association deserves a lot of credit for driving up Daggett’s negatives in the last two weeks of the campaign. The RGA deftly turned the race into a choice between the Republican (who happens to be some guy named Christie) or the fictitious Corzine-Daggett ticket.

Video: Axelrod reacts Democrats would have preferred Corzine drop out much earlier. The White House could read the polls and his abysmal approval rating. But there was no real alternative, and Corzine — with his gobs of cash — wasn't beholden to the state party machine. Many New Jersey Democratic Party faithful pined for the return of former Gov. Dick Codey, who enjoyed high approvals before deciding not to run for re-election after taking over for Jim McGreevey.

Lack of Democratic voter intensity
Virginia’s gubernatorial race was for an open seat — as it incredibly is every four years — and it was an uphill battle for the Democrats from the beginning.

Democrat Creigh Deeds was not a solid candidate, but there were few, if any, alternatives. (How do you think Terry McAuliffe would have fared?) Also, as many analysts have noted, the party that controls the White House hasn’t won the off-year gubernatorial election in Virginia since 1977 — that’s nine straight elections.

Why is that? Because the opposition is always more amped up the year after a new president takes office. The wounds of loss for the opposition are fresh.

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This was the first opportunity for conservatives and Republicans to express their frustration with being out of power in Washington, D.C. That frustration, of course, is amplified by the fact that Democrats are at 60 in the Senate and have a sweeping majority in the House, in addition to controlling the presidency.

That said, Democrats should heed the warnings in both Virginia and New Jersey. Independents moved overwhelmingly in this election to the Republicans and young voters, who came out in droves for candidate Barack Obama, didn't this time around.

Conservatives defiant
In New York's 23rd congressional district special election, Democrats pulled off quite the coup. It’s the second competitive special election in Upstate New York to go to the Democrats since Obama became president. Both times Republicans predicted the comeback would start there (see: Steele, Michael). Both times they were wrong.

But maybe the result in NY-23 isn’t all that surprising.

Upstate New Yorkers don't like carpetbaggers. The Conservative Party candidate, Doug Hoffman, didn't live in the district, became the national candidate, and didn't have a command of local issues. The local candidate who best understood that district — Democrat Bill Owens — won.

Also remember that in the other upstate race, NY-20, Republican Jim Tedisco didn't live in the district, either. And Republicans lost that one as well to the lesser-known venture capitalist Scott Murphy. There were, however, other factors in that race: Democrats controlled the seat for the past two cycles and Obama’s approval rating was even higher then.

Last night's results in NY-23 leave the GOP almost completely out of power in New York State. It now controls just two of New York's 29 congressional districts — one in upstate and one out in Long Island. And, since 2006, Republicans have lost six seats in what was traditionally conservative Upstate.

That's on top of the GOP holding zero seats in all of New England.

Yet, don't expect Sarah Palin, Dick Armey, the Club for (Democratic?) Growth or the rest of the Tea Partiers to wrap up their crumpets and go home.

No. Quite the opposite. They are, in fact, emboldened.

"The race for New York’s 23rd District is not over, just postponed until 2010," Palin wrote on her Facebook page, her preferred medium for expressing her views. "The issues of this election have always centered on the economy — on the need for fiscal restraint, smaller government, and policies that encourage jobs. In 2010, these issues will be even more crucial to the electorate. I commend Doug Hoffman and all the other under-dog candidates who have the courage to put themselves out there and run against the odds."

So, for those that thought NY-23 was the cleansing. Think again.

Will conservatives organize to boldly challenge GOP candidates in 2010?

You betcha.

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