Democrats Seek Clues in Voter Turnout

President Obama and his team are hoping to avoid going 0 for 3 today as elections take place in several key states and districts.

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 started downplaying any notion that the results today may provide some measurement of the political health of the Obama administration.

"I don't believe that local elections in Virginia and New Jersey portend a lot about legislative success or political success in the future. I just don't," Gibbs told reporters today.

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.

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 have said they are eager to see how two key voting groups perform today.

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.

"In both states I think you've seen independents play a big roll. In New Jersey it's led to a third party candidate and I think in Virginia it's going to be one of the reasons that Bob McDonnell has such a big win is that he's going to win possibly between 15 and 20 points spread with independents. And I want to see how those voters, as voters come out of the exit polls I want to see what their positions are on spending," said Republican strategist Kevin Madden on ABC's "Top Line" Tuesday.

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