I stayed up really late Tuesday night reading and watching analysis of Tuesday’s off-year elections. I’ve been in so many spin zones I feel as if I’ve spent 10 ride tickets on a Tilt-a-Whirl. The bad news for Democrats in the exit polls was, as James Carville would put it, “the economy, stupid.”

I stayed up really late Tuesday night reading and watching analysis of Tuesday’s off-year elections. I’ve been in so many spin zones I feel as if I’ve spent 10 ride tickets on a Tilt-a-Whirl.

Republicans romped in Virginia, a “purple state,” where conservative Bob McDonnell won the governor’s race in a landslide over Democrat Creigh Deeds. (There are no incumbents in Virginia elections for governor because the state has a one-term limit.)

The GOP also took other statewide offices in Virginia and picked up seats in the state’s Legislature. In “blue” New Jersey, liberal Democratic Gov. John Corzine was defeated by former federal prosecutor Chris Christie despite President Barack Obama’s appearances in the state for Corzine.

The Virginia and New Jersey results should send a warning signal from voters to the Democrats who run Congress, and to Obama:

“Out here in real life, our first priority is jobs, not health care or the environment or Afghanistan. Unemployment is still going up, and you have one more year to get the unemployment rate down to 6 percent.”

Exit polling data said voters were not punishing Obama, who remains personally popular. But as other polls have shown, the president’s policies are not nearly as well received, and that affects Congress, which is attempting to implement Obama’s ambitious agenda.

The bad news for Democrats in the exit polls was, as James Carville would put it, “the economy, stupid.” Here’s what ABC News said:

“A vast 89 percent in New Jersey and 85 percent in Virginia said they were worried about the direction of the nation’s economy in the next year; 56 percent and 53 percent, respectively, said they were ‘very’ worried about it. Voters who expressed the highest levels of economic discontent heavily favored the Republican candidates in both states.”

Worse, the Democratic base that was “fired up and ready to go” in 2008 was “out of gas and up on blocks” Tuesday. Instead it was the Republican Party’s conservative leaders who motivated people to the polls.

Republicans, who are badly outnumbered in Congress, will pick up seats in 2010, but reclaiming Congress will be tough. I’ll predict now that Republican gains in the Senate will deprive the Democrats of the 60 seats they need to advance Obama’s agenda.

The Democrats won a seat in New York’s 23rd House District, but that’s a fluke. Bill Owens won because Republicans had a civil war. GOP candidate Dede Scozzafava was too liberal for conservatives, who rallied around Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. Scozzafava withdrew Saturday, but her name appeared on the ballot. Owens won with 49 percent. Hoffman would have won had Scozzafava’s name not been there to take 5 percent of the vote.

AN AWFUL BILL — The campaign finance “reform “ bill passed by the Illinois General Assembly is a sham. Not only does it give more power to leaders like House Speaker Mike Madigan, it shields candidates from having to report large contributions in a timely manner.

“Instead of having to report donations of $500 or more to the State Board of Elections, the threshold was raised to $1,000. That means that if a candidate receives a $999 check, no one will know about it until after the election,” says state Rep. Dave Winters, R-Shirland, in his weekly e-mail.

“Instead of requiring candidates to report campaign contributions when they receive the money, they only have to disclose those contributions when the funds are deposited into their campaign account,” Winters says.

Rockford Register Star Senior Editor Chuck Sweeny can be reached at (815) 987-1366 or csweeny@rrstar.com.