Even though I’ve been writing a lot about NY-23, there are several other major elections going on tomorrow–namely, the gubernatorial elections in VA and NJ.
It’s doubtless that, no matter how those elections turn out, some people are going to try to argue that the results indicate how the 2010 elections will play out.
But is there really any kind of reliable correlation between the gubernatorial elections in VA and NJ and the following year’s Congressional elections?**
Well, let’s take a look:
Out of those five election pairings, there were three instances in which the off-year gubernatorial elections matched the results of the following year’s Congressional elections (2005/2006, 1993/1994 and 1989/1990).
On the other hand, out of those five election pairings, there were two instances in which the off-year gubernatorial elections were the exact opposite of the following year’s Congressional elections (2001/2002 and 1997/1998).
In other words, neither New Jersey nor Virginia appear to be reliable national bellwethers, nor does either state seem to be any more of a bellweather than the other.
And there’s no reason to think that either of these elections should be bellwethers. They’re merely two statewide elections, held in low-turnout, low-attention off-years, typically decided by local issues (as opposed to the national issues that decide Congressional elections) and they’re held a full year away from the subsequent Congressional elections.
Keep all of this in mind for whenever anyone claims that the results in NJ and/or VA somehow indicate how the 2010 elections will turn out. There is simply no way of knowing how 2010 will go, and it’s safe to assume that tomorrow’s elections are not necessarily any kind of indicator whatsoever.
**I’m exempting NY-23 from my analysis since their special election has been a bizarre race with a variety of unique factors: the significant national attention, the prior existence of three competitive candidates, the GOP candidate’s dropout/defection, the fact that NY’s electoral system creates a fertile environment for third parties, etc.