Nov 5, 2009

Election Round-up: Its Not What You Think

On Tuesday the GOP got a little wind back into its sails by winning two important governorships in New Jersey and Virginia. In New Jersey former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie beat incumbent governor John Corzine by a four percent margin to become the first Republican elected to statewide office there in 12 years. In Virginia Republican Bob McDonnell defeated R. Creigh Deeds 59-39 to restore his party to the governorship after 7 years of Democratic control.

The GOP is pointing to these victories as proof that the election of 2008 was a fluke and that Republicans are now the ascendent party in this country... or something like that. On the other side, Democrats are shoveling the blame for these losses on local political issues that do not reflect upon the party as a whole. The media, especially the cable news mavens, have had party operatives on both sides speak on their programs to make both arguments over and over. Both arguments are disingenuous, wrong, and wishful thinking.

This election was not a major rejection of the results of the 2008 presidential election. Though Barack Obama might not have the coattails state and local Democratic groups hoped he had, his support remains strong even in the states where Republicans won governorships. A clear majority of the US population still approves of the job he is doing. Any attempt to spin the results of this election to portray Obama in an intensely negative light is simply an attempt by Republicans to continue their hatefest against the Democratic president. Nothing more, nothing less.

The Democratic argument, however, that these losses solely reflect local political issues is also easily disproved by exit polling. Exit polls showed that the overwhelmingly dominant issue for these elections was the economy. People are more worried about the state of the economy than they are about climate change, health care, or Afghanistan. The economy is a national issue which is 'trickling down' to have a major effect on these local elections.

Economic influence in the decisions of American voters doesn't necessarily play against Barack Obama and the Democratic party. In fact, over the past few weeks the Democrats have scored major victories on the economic front that could serve to radically shift the momentum back in their favor. New jobless claims have reached their lowest point since Obama's inauguration. Furthermore, Obama and the party leadership have successfully led this country out of the recession far faster than most anticipated.

Throughout the next week we'll look at how the parties can seize the moment on the economy and develop successful electoral strategies for 2010 and 2012.

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