Already-skittish moderate Democrats in Congress got fresh reasons Wednesday to worry about their votes on economic and health care legislation from the election results in Virginia and New Jersey.
Democrats from the left, right and center saw a warning in Tuesday’s results, which saw independents – who had backed Democrats in the 2006 congressional elections and President Barack Obama last year – switch their votes to help elect Republican governors in both states.
Democrats from swing states feel new pressure not to be perceived as too liberal. That may impede Democratic leaders’ efforts to pass a sweeping health care overhaul, especially one that includes a new government-run insurance plan, or climate change emissions-control legislation.
“The House leadership needs to pay attention to what happened in Virginia,” said Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., one of 52 conservative Democrats, or Blue Dogs, in the House of Representatives.
And in the Wall Street Journal
Those advocating caution pointed to Virginia, where Mr. McDonnell defeated Democrat R. Creigh Deeds for the governorship in a state Mr. Obama carried a year earlier.
“I do consider Virginia a bellwether state,” said Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi, a conservative Democrat. “I would encourage the leadership to get back to the center.”
The debate among Democrats underscores the dilemma facing both parties as they look for lessons in Tuesday’s vote.
Both parties are seeking the formula to fire up their respective voter base without turning off independents critical to winning in competitive 2010 congressional and state elections.
While the party in power almost always loses seats in midterm election, Democrats, with a 40-seat majority in the House, must keep losses to a minimum if they are to carry out Mr. Obama’s legislative agenda.
In the Senate, Republican retirements give Democrats the opportunity to gain seats if they can strike the right balance in such states as Ohio, Missouri, New Hampshire and Kentucky. To win, candidates in both parties will need to show they have plans to spur economic growth and jobs that voters worried about record budget deficits will believe.