Although many expected Tuesday’s elections to clearly express the voters’ disapproval of the direction the country is taking under the Democrats, the message sent by voters appears to be more nuanced.
On the one hand, the conservative Republican Bob McDonnell’s victory in the gubernatorial race in Virginia and moderate Republican Chris Christie win in New Jersey may be seen as a triumph for a party that appeared to be in disarray after two national electoral defeats in 2006 and 2008.
However, in the closely watched special election in New York’s 23rd congressional district, the conservative candidate — endorsed by such GOP heavyweights as Sarah Palin and Dick Armey as well as by Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck — was defeated by retired Air Force Captain Bill Owens, a Democrat.
In the run up to the vote, the liberal Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava withdrew under pressure from the party’s right wing, a development some interpreted as indicative of an ongoing feud between the far right and moderates for control of the party.
On Wednesday, GOP leaders sought to diminish the meaning of Hoffman’s defeat, with Republican Party chairman Michael Steele stressing the local nature of the election and suggesting the gubernatorial races were a better indicator of the party’s success.
However, President Obama’s campaign chairman David Plouffe suggested the Republicans were still divided as conservatives keep pushing for "purging moderates from the party," something the voters appear to disapprove of it.