— Tuesday night's election results will be read, discussed and interpreted for weeks to come. But even before the first vote is counted, we can probably draw some conclusions from those races.
A big Republican win in Virginia will not be an earth mover, but instead confirm that the home of Thomas Jefferson and Robert E. Lee is a toss-up state that still swings Republican. A Bob McDonnell victory will be seen by most in the media as reflecting a rising discomfort with the explosive growth of Washington, but also, perhaps more importantly, the weakness of the Democratic candidate.
While a Virginia loss may be easily explained away by Democrats, a New Jersey loss will not.
Unlike the Virginia governor's race, the weakest candidate in the race for the Garden State's top job is a Republican. Chris Christie could never be confused with a first-tier candidate, but the overweight former prosecutor may soon be moving his bulky frame into the governor's mansion in Trenton.
Every Democratic consultant I've talked to over the past few days has let loose involuntary groans every time they talked about this race. Many Democrats began quietly predicting the collapse of the independent candidate at the end of last week and assumed that factor would help Christie.
Last minute polls suggest they may be right.
Still, I believe the Democrats' turnout operation should keep this race tight all night. If the race is instead a blowout, that can only be bad news for the Democrats.
And for those second guessing the president's active involvement in Corzine's race, the fact is that Barack Obama had no choice but to jump head first into the Jersey fight. All the president's men know that a Republican sweep in New Jersey and Virginia will strike fear in the hearts of those swing state Democrats who now hold the future of health care in their sweaty moderate hands.
That reality may upset progressive Democrats but it is the reality that confronts the Obama White House tonight.
New York 23
While the twists and turns in Virginia and New Jersey have been fascinating to follow over the past few months, no race has been as entertaining as the special election for New York's 23rd congressional district.
Frank Rich used his Sunday column to suggest that conservatives' success in that district would signal the rise of Stalinism in American politics.
Other press reports have boiled the race down to a civil war over abortion and gay marriage.
And for their part, some conservatives have declared the rise of Doug Hoffman as an indictment of Barack Obama.
But all of these interpretations miss the bigger point.
Hoffman's ascendancy in NY-23 is less about Barack Obama than it is about a decade of bloated and corrupt Republican leadership in Washington, D.C. This race gave the same conservatives who helped drive Ronald Reagan's victory and the 1994 Republican Revolution something to cheer about for the first time in a long time. It also gave them an opportunity to stick it to an incompetent GOP Establishment.
This was, after all, same political party that promised to balance budgets in the 1990s, but then turned around and produced record deficits a over the next ten years.
And those same Republican leaders who called for military restraint and a focused foreign policy while Bill Clinton was president then spent the next decade promising to rid the world of tyranny by exporting democracy across the globe.
For years GOP politicians would come on my set in Washington and quietly grouse about the political disaster that was George W. Bush. But then the red light on the camera would then come on and they would meekly fall in line. New York 23 suggests that sorry chapter may be coming to an end.
Who knows? Maybe the conservative movement is finally coming to terms with a lesson I learned long ago: that Republican political leaders can't be trusted any more than Democratic party leaders. After all, party bosses of all persuasions pledge loyalties to the advancement of their own party instead of your principles.
It took the departure of George Bush and the continued bungling of GOP leaders to finally stir up the sufficient amount of courage for small government conservatives to take on the Republican establishment.
The press will continue to make this race about abortion, gay marriage and Sarah Palin, but the fact is that Doug Hoffman has focused on his opponents' positions on the stimulus package, card check and higher taxes.
If you're a progressive, don't blame this race's outcome on Focus on the Family. Responsibility rests instead on Club for Growth. The races in upstate New York as well as Virginia and New Jersey will be decided on one issue: the economy.
Here are my predictions a little more than 24 hours before the polls close:
Virginia — Bob McDonnell by 10+
New Jersey — Chris Christie by 1
New York 23 — Doug Hoffman by 7
After calling me all sorts of unseemly names for my backward thinking and knuckle-dragging ways, comment below and give me your predictions. I'd love to see what you think. I'm especially curious about what New Jersey residents think of their governor's race that will be seen by most voters as a choice between two uninspired candidates. (Despite my prediction, I still have a hard time seeing Jon Corzine losing this race.)