A good observation by AP writer Michelle Smith (even if the article itself is highly editorialized and slanted) that the New England Republicans, with so much history, seemed to be rejected by the Northeast electorate this time around, and that the GOP faces an uphill battle there, even with moderate candidates.
Still, her conclusions are a bit overstated. It's typical for people to overreact to loss and change. "Losing the House and Senate" feels like you lost everything. But in losses, Republican soon-to-be-former Congressman Charles Bass (N.H.) got 45% of the vote. Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) got 47% of the vote. Election by election, many of these Republicans lost close races. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine (above) won 74% of the vote. And the Republicans retained three of the six New England governor's seats. There is still plenty of support for the GOP, even in New England.
With that said, Smith's observation that that support is eroding does have merit. The Republicans had held the Massachusetts governor's seat for 16 years; their candidate this time around, Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, mustered only 35% of the vote in the general election. While New England Republicans remain socially moderate or liberal, when the election becomes a "national election," as this last midterm election did, then the image of the Confederate-flag-waving Southern Republicans that the media constantly pushes can dominate elections even 1,000 miles away.
But there's another way of looking at the New England electorate that isn't just red and blue. One race I haven't heard talked about too much was the Maine governor's race. It was won by Democrat incumbent John Baldacci with only 38% of the vote because there were four candidates that got at least 10% of the vote. New England will be sending two independents - Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Joe Lieberman (Conn.) - to the U.S. Senate. To me, these results speak more about the independent thinking of many New Englanders than the wins or losses by Republicans and Democrats.
The future of the party in New England, where I spent all my three weeks of my first 18 years, is certainly up in the air. If the national party does continue to become more socially conservative, it will be in dire straits in the Northeast in four years. However, from the way most people are talking, I'm pretty confident the GOP will find more common ground with the social liberals and the party will start gaining back ground in New England in 2008.