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Steele: Elections show GOP has regained its voice. What voice is that?

On the eve of the first anniversary of Barack Obama's election as president, his party lost the governor's seats in Virginia and New Jersey, both by fairly decisive margins. They're both states that the president carried last year, and they're both elections in which he campaigned for the Democrats this year. What does that mean? Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele was on CBS's "The Early Show" this morning saying the results showed a "transcendent" Republican Party that the GOP "has really found its voice again."

That's a bit of a stretch.

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Those results certainly aren't a great sign for the president, but then again, the sitting president's party, whichever one it is, routinely loses the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia. The exit polls in both states showed more voters approved of President Obama's job performance than not, and most people in both states said he had nothing to do with how they voted. (In fact, those who said the president was a factor were evenly split between showing support and opposition to him)

People expressed much more concern about the economy than anything else, but local issues in both states -- Democrat Creigh Deeds' inability to connect with voters in Virginia, and a desire for change in scandal-ridden New Jersey -- also played major roles. (ABC News has a good rundown of the numbers here.)

But if anything belies the notion of a "transcendent," unified GOP, it's the victory of a Democrat in the solidly Republican 23rd Congressional District in upstate New York. In that race, Republicans nominated a socially liberal Republican, Dierdre Scozzafava, only to see conservatives rally around a much more right wing candidate, Doug Hoffman. National Republicans, including Sarah Palin, Fred Thompson and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, endorsed Hoffman, and Scozzafava dropped out over the weekend. She endorsed the Democrat, Bill Owens, and recorded robocalls on his behalf. He won.

So what voice exactly has the GOP found? The moderate one that brought victory in Virginia and New Jersey, or the hard-line conservative one that flopped in New York?

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