A lot is riding on next week's hotly contested state and gubernatorial elections. All eyes are on Virginia, New Jersey, and, of course, upstate New York's congressional race, where conservative third party candidate Doug Hoffman looks likely to shut out his Republican opponent. For weeks, pundits have argued that the elections represent a referendum on President Obama, Democrats and the direction of the Republican party. But a handful of commentators now say that the sudden zeal for third party candidates like Doug Hoffman reveals a deep disdain for both major political parties. Here's why:

  • 2009, Year of the Third Party Candidate  At Politics Daily, Walter Shapiro says it's a mistake to see the elections in New Jersey and New York as a clear-cut referendum on President Obama. If there's any lesson in them, Shapiro says, it's that voters are rejecting both parties, and partisan politics as a whole. In New Jersey, for example,  Shapiro says the negativity in the Corzine-Christie campaign has led voters to turn to third party candidate Chris Daggett.
The brass knuckle New Jersey gubernatorial race has become a classic none-of-the-above election with both Corzine and his GOP challenger, Chris Christie, consistently boasting higher negative poll ratings than positive ones." Small wonder that independent candidate Chris Daggett -- a moderate Republican who won credibility with his endorsement by the Newark Star-Ledger -- has been scoring in the low double digits in almost all New Jersey polls for a month.
  • Elected Officials Should Be Afraid  At The Fix, Chris Cillizza says the rise in third party candidates should worry Democrats and Republicans, no matter who wins next week's elections. "While Republicans will cast a Hoffman win as a victory for them (it shows an energized GOP base) and Democrats will tout it as victory for their side (it shows a deeply divided Republican party), the truth is that a Hoffman win should send shivers up the spine of anyone who carries 'Representative', 'Senator' or 'Governor' before their name."
  • Republicans Take Heed  Jennifer Rubin of the conservative Commentary Magazine says Republicans who want to stay in power will have to "ride the wave" of anti-Washington populism that's sweeping the country. "We will see next week who wins and by how much. But one lesson may be clear: Republican candidates will have to tap into the populist, anti-Washington fervor and take-no-prisoners attitude if they are going to unify their party, attract increasingly skeptical independents, and achieve their aims."
  • Conservatives Should Use Third Parties to Advance the Cause  At The Next Right, Patrick Ruffini says he's usually "a strong party guy," but that the Republicans in office aren't sufficiently conservative. He says third parties may offer a way for conservatives to "infiltrate," err...influence the Republican Party.

    What if you were to have promising Republican candidates running in Democratic-lean seats say, a few months out from the election, 'Let me tell you something. I'm just as sick and tired of the Republicans as I am of the Democrats. So, from this moment forward, I'm running as a common-sense, Independent conservative for Congress.'

    [...]From one perspective, this would not be helpful to efforts to tie the Republican brand to a broader sense of popular disgust at the Obama/Pelosi overreach. On the other hand, it might be a way for conservatives to invade the center, and thus control the high ground politically."

  • Doug Hoffman, Conservative Revolutionary  At The Power Line, John affectionately calls NY-23's third party candidate Doug Hoffman a "conservative ideological insurgent."