The Democrats will want to say that last night's setbacks for their party were not a reflection on Barack Obama and it is true that most voters told pollsters that the President was not a big factor in their decision. However, it is also true that the magic that he sprinkled on American politics has gone. He stumped for the embattled Democratic Governor of New Jersey, Jon Corzine, five times during the campaign, twice as recently as Sunday. The President recorded ads for Corzine and Corzine used Obama constantly in his own ads. None of this was enough to save the Democrat from voter anger about taxes and general economic distress. The Republican Chris Christie won the Governorship by 49% to 45%. Jennifer Rubin writes:
"The White House will have a hard time saying this one doesn’t matter. Obama won the state by 14%. The Republicans in a only a year won the state back."
The Republican victory was even bigger in Virginia. The so-called purple swing state of Virginia has been trending to the Democrats for a number of years and it was one of Obama's biggest prizes last year. But the Republican candidate for Governor won a landslide victory yesterday. Bob McDonnell "steamrolled" his Democrat opponent by 59% to 41%. The GOP won all three Virginia-wide offices up for election. McDonnell made a promise not to raise taxes but to use efficiency savings to afford improvements to transport and schools. He also campaigned heavily against President Obama's proposed cap on greenhouse emissions (while backing more green jobs) and against plans to aid unionisation of Virginia's economy. As RealClearPolitics noted, however, McDonnell was a conservative who downplayed social issues, was relentlessly optimistic and asked Sarah Palin to stay out of the campaign. Ramesh Ponnuru offers one other lesson:
"One of the lessons he draws is that Republican candidates have to "finish the sentence." Instead of just saying that we have to keep taxes and spending low, and thus pleasing conservatives, he said, McDonnell explain how these policies would create jobs and "plug the hole in [the budget]." Too many Republican candidates, he says, forget to do that."
Exactly. Conservatives need to show how conservative themes have practical benefits.
The most disappointing result for conservatives and Republicans comes from New York state where a Democrat won after the Republican vote was split. ConInternational discussed this fascinating contest on Saturday. Conservatives will blame the party establishment for the defeat, saying that they were wrong to foist such a liberal candidate on them. Republican centrists will say that the tactics of insurgent grassroots conservatives have resulted in a Democrat winning a usually very safe Republican seat.
Mike Bloomberg was re-elected New York City's Mayor but his opponent ran him surprisingly close (51% to 46%). The New York Times attributes the closeness of the race to "his maneuver to undo the city’s term limits law and his extravagant campaign spending". Bloomberg out-spent his opponent by ten-to-one!
It looks like voters in the moderate state of Maine have narrowly overturned a law that legalised same-sex marriage.