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Cory Booker, then Newark mayor, subsequently elected to the US Senate (D-NJ), laughing.
Wednesday night, Cory Booker became just the fourth African-American senator elected by popular vote in the history of the nation, defeating Republican Steve Lonegan by 55 percent to 44 percent. With Booker's win coming the same night as Republicans faced the defeat of not getting to drag the country into default or take health care from millions of people, they have a lot to spin.

In the days leading up to the special election, Republicans sent Reince Priebus and Sarah Palin to stump for Lonegan and make wild claims about the importance of the election. According to Priebus, Lonegan was going to "bring our party together." To Palin:

"New Jersey, know that the eyes of America are on you now," Palin said. "You can turn things around. Something big is happening here," the former vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor told an enthusiastic crowd of about 4,000 people at the New Egypt Speedway.
The eyes of the nation were probably much more on the possibility of default, but all that high-level Republican optimism about Lonegan's importance left them spinning desperately Thursday morning. The spin? Booker didn't win New Jersey by as much as Obama, and also the polls narrowed from Booker's gaudy early leads.

If you know absolutely nothing about elections, not the first thing, maybe this is convincing. If you know even a little about elections, though, you know that polls are always going to tighten when one candidate starts out with hugely more name recognition than the other and that the Republican base is made up of much more reliable voters than the Democratic base. Scheduling the election for Wednesday, not Tuesday, made it even less likely that irregular voters would vote. In the end, as Steve Singiser wrote last night, "Turnout, as would be expected in a midweek special election, was dismal, with most fully reporting counties reporting roughly a third of their 2012 presidential turnout." The recipe for a disproportionately Republican electorate, in other words.

Combine Booker's 11-point win with the Democratic victory in a Florida special election for state legislature and the overwhelming likelihood that Virginia will soon have a Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and what you have is exactly the reverse of a sign that Democrats are weak.

9:18 AM PT: Dave Weigel punches a cathedral-sized hole in this Republican spin:

Booker's 55 percent was the most any candidate's won in an open seat race for U.S. Senate in New Jersey since the 1930 election of Dwight Morrow. It's vanishingly rare for a New Jersey candidate to crack 60 percent statewide; it hadn't been done since 1984, the first re-election of Bill Bradley.
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Originally posted to Laura Clawson on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 07:11 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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