Folks tuning in to watch election results Tuesday night watched as a sea of red washed over those touch-screen maps of the United States that the political analysts are so fond of. Republicans won big and won just about everywhere, including locally.
Every Pettis County courthouse office up for grabs was won by a Republican, as the anti-Obama, anti-incumbent, anti-just-about-everything movement influenced races on every level. The lagging economy was Issue No. 1 for most voters, and since Democrats held the White House, Senate and House, they took the blame — and the losses.
But the anti-incumbent sentiment may not be completely worked out of voters’ systems. Before Tuesday’s election, pollster Scott Rasmussen wrote a piece for the notoriously conservative Wall Street Journal that provided words of caution for Republicans.
“In this environment, it would be wise for all Republicans to remember that their team didn’t win, the other team lost,” Rasmussen wrote. “Heading into 2012, voters will remain ready to vote against the party in power unless they are given a reason not to do so.”
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, told CBS News that his party must not misread the backlash against Democrats and their policies. He noted how federal spending ran amok and infuriated real conservatives when George W. Bush was in the White House.
“We have to understand they’re not saying ‘Hey, we love you Republicans,’ but, ‘We’re not satisfied with this and will give you guys a chance.’ ”
The clear message is that voters want less government spending, less federal intrusion in their day-to-day lives and more jobs and prosperity in their communities. Republicans locally and nationally campaigned on the party’s traditional message of fiscal responsibility. They now have been given the keys to the economic engine; what voters are waiting for is whether that engine will turn over and start humming again — soon.
If it does, the GOP will get to drive that car until it stalls. If it remains idle, voters likely will give the keys back to Democrats for another try in a couple of years.