Democrats Seek Warning Signs from Voters

"You know, last year when we had the election, everybody was excited, you know, everything felt fresh and new, and we had a -- we were going to turn the page. And because of you, because of your extraordinary efforts, because you believed, because you had confidence, because you knew that there was this gap between what America should be and what it was, and we could close that gap by working harder and working smarter and having a government that was more transparent and more trustworthy -- because of you, we succeeded at a time when nobody believed we could," Obama said to applause.

"Now, I thank you for that -- it wasn't because of me, it was because of you. But here's the thing. Here's the tough part. Here's the time when it's not as sexy, it's not as flashy. You know, this is when governing comes in, and we've got to make tough choices. And progress isn't always as quick as we want it. And we still got to negotiate with an intransigent opposition," he added.

It is these Obama surge voters the House Democratic campaign chief will be watching on Tuesday as a hint of what may be coming his way in 2010.

Democrats Seek Large Voter Turnout

"Our challenge in the congressional races in the midterm will be to make sure not that we reach presidential levels of turnout – you're never going to get there, but that the turnout on the Democratic side is at least proportionally as high as it was in the presidential election and you have the same mix of Democratic and Obama voters coming out to the polls," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who serves as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

"Because if turnout, for example, among young voters was to dip significantly as a proportion of the turnout, or among African American voters was to dip significantly that could cause problems. So what we're going to be looking at is intensity levels, energy levels, which translate into turnout and that will be what we keep our eye most closely on in terms of those races just for some -- any early warning signs on whether Democrats aren't just showing up to the polls," Van Hollen added.

Although the upstate New York congressional district that is home to a competitive special election on Tuesday has been represented by a Republican for more than 100 years, President Obama won it with 52 percent of the vote in 2008.

Republican Dede Scozzafava's decision to end her candidacy, despite her endorsement of Democrat Bill Owens, has likely boosted Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman's chances at hanging onto that seat for the GOP in Congress.

"In the short run there is clear energy here in the small government, anti-government argument," National Journal's Political Director Ron Brownstein said as a guest on the "This Week" roundtable on Sunday.

The White House is likely to spin the results on Tuesday as both not terribly predictive for 2010 and a sign, in NY-23, that the Republican Party is falling hostage to the extreme right-wing of the party.

However, that ignores the fact that the one thing these off-year elections can provide us is a peek into a small sliver of the electorate and what is driving them at this moment in time.

"This can't be completely attributed to a bad economy and to an unpopular incumbent in New Jersey," said Democratic strategist and former Clinton White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers.

"There is something afoot in the land that people are uncomfortable about and one of the issues is spending. And that is probably the biggest issue," she said and, perhaps unwittingly, made her successor Gibbs' job a touch more difficult when she did so.

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