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2011 Election Results: Mixed Messages

Voter stickers at a polling station Tuesday in San Francisco.
Justin Sullivan
Getty Images
Voter stickers at a polling station Tuesday in San Francisco.

As news outlets try to decipher what Tuesday's election results tell us about what voters are thinking, they're reaching various conclusions.

-- "Warning Sign" For Obama? The Washington Post, focusing on one key state, says "legislative elections in Virginia appeared likely to add more evidence — as if national Democrats needed it — that the terrain of the political map will be significantly more rugged for President Obama next year." With one Virginia Senate race still too close to call, Democrats were on the brink of losing control of that chamber.

-- "Pause In Conservative Trend? Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times casts a wider net and decides that because "Ohio voters overturned a controversial law that would have weakened public employee unions and Mississippians rejected an antiabortion 'personhood' initiative," the results suggest "at least a pause in the strong conservative Republican trend that swept Democrats from office in 2010."

And Politico reaches a similar conclusion, writing that Democrats did well because they "claimed victories in a number of races Tuesday, including in Kentucky, Ohio and Mississippi, where voters sided with their candidates or ballot initiatives backed by the party."

-- Continued Conservative Backlash On Health Care: Still, as the Plain Dealer reports, the "conservative base" in Ohio turned out in force to support a ballot issue that would "bar any legislation requiring Ohioans to buy health insurance" — a direct shot at the federal health care overhaul.

-- Rejection Of Conservative Stand On Immigration? In Arizona, though, state Senate President Russell Pearce "was on the verge of losing his Senate seat in Tuesday's unprecedented recall election," the Arizona Republic reports. And he has been, as the newspaper says, "one of the most influential state politicians in the nation and a powerful voice on illegal immigration" as the main force behind the state's controversial Senate Bill 1070 immigration legislation.

On Morning Edition, NPR's Julie Rovner reported about the vote in Mississippi on "personhood." As she said, "voters in Colorado had twice rejected similar amendments to declare that life begins legally at fertilization ... but Mississippi, with its far more conservative bent, was considered much friendlier territory." She adds that "supporters ... aren't giving up. Efforts are already underway to get similar constitutional amendments on the ballot in another half dozen states next year and to pass personhood legislation in at least two more."

There's more about the Mississippi vote at It's All Politics.

Also on Morning Edition, Bill Cohen of Ohio Public Radio reported from Columbus that "unions and their allies are basking in their big win" on the public employee unions issue. And at It's All Politics, Elise Hu writes that the the unions' victory could be "a momentum shift in their direction."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott
Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.