Democrats Seek Warning Signs from Voters

President Obama and his team are hoping to avoid going 0 for 3 on Election Day tomorrow.

The most pressing immediate political impact of a shutout may be some tougher-to-woo moderate Democratic votes on health care reform precisely at the same time the White House is looking to get this major legislative priority signed into law and off the president's desk.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has made sure to start downplaying any notion that the results on Tuesday may provide some measurement of the political health of the Obama administration.

"Whatever the results are I don't think they portend a lot in dealing with the future," Gibbs told reporters on Friday.

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The latest polls in Virginia, New Jersey, and New York's 23rd congressional district, show that the Democrats may indeed be in for a rough night.

Obviously, taking a beating at the ballot box in three over-interpreted, off-year elections does not suggest that Rep. John Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell should start measuring the drapes in the speaker and majority leader offices just yet.

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But don't let Gibbs' pre-election attempt to downplay the results lead you to believe that the Obama White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill are not eagerly looking for warning signs on Tuesday.

The recent history of these off-year Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races has not been kind to the party holding the White House. And the first midterm election year for a new president has been equally harsh for his party.

Historic trends aside, Republican and Democratic political operatives say they are eager to see how two key voting groups perform on Tuesday.

Independent Voters Key in '09 Vote

Independents continue to be the big prize in American politics. Obama and his fellow Democrats owe much of their 2006 and 2008 victories to the backing of independent voters.

Recent polls in all three high-profile electoral contests show independents moving toward the Republican or Conservative candidates.

"They are fed up with the spending, they are fed up with the taxes, they're tired of seeing businesses run out of the state, and they are tired of seeing one-party rule in Trenton," said former RNC Chairman and Bush adviser Ed Gillespie on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

"What we're seeing now is a reaction to that and we got wind our back for Chris Christie. I think Daggett's numbers will come down between now and Tuesday and they will go to Christie," Gillespie said in his prediction that independents will continue to flow from the third-party candidate in New Jersey, Chris Daggett, to the Republican candidate, Chris Christie.

The Republican candidate for governor in Virginia, Bob McDonnell, had no GOP primary to fight this year and has been actively wooing independent voters in his advertising and direct mail pieces.

The other key voter group to watch will be the Obama surge voters. They came out in droves in 2008 excited by Obama's historic candidacy, but many of them had not voted before 2008 and may have done so more in support of the Obama candidacy than due to any allegiance to the Democratic Party or its policy goals.

Those are the voters President Obama directly addressed at a campaign rally for Gov. Jon Corzine in Newark, N.J., yesterday.

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