With 99% of precincts reporting, Republican Bob McDonnell leads Democrat Creigh Deeds 59% to 41%; major news outlets have projected that McDonnell will be elected the next Governor of Virginia.
With 96% of precincts reporting, Republican Chris Christie leads Democratic Governor Jon Corzine 49% to 45%; major news outlets have projected that Christie will be elected the next Governor of New Jersey.
What does this mean? Well, as I said earlier today, the fact that the GOP won both Governorships is significant, particularly in New Jersey.
Of course, “significant” doesn’t mean “predictive.” As I’ve noted several times before, neither of these states can really be construed as consistent bellwethers, meaning that nobody can really draw any conclusions about 2010 from today.
But were either of these elections a referendum on President Obama and his policies? Should the election of two Republican Governors be seen as a warning to the White House and Democratic Congress?
In a word, no. Just check the polling:
Preliminary exit polls suggest that voters largely support the president: 57 percent of voters in New Jersey and 51 percent in Virginia said they approve of Obama’s job performance. A distinct minority of voters said their votes were connected to the president’s leadership.
Six in 10 New Jersey voters said Tuesday that President Obama had no effect on their vote in this off-year gubernatorial election, according to early CNN Exit Poll data.
Obama visited New Jersey this week to campaign for embattled Gov. Jon Corzine, who is locked in a tough re-election contest with Republican Chris Christie. When asked if Obama had an effect on their vote, 60 percent responded he was not a factor, 20 percent said their vote was meant to express opposition to him, and 19 percent said it was to support him.
Actually, if you want to conclude that these races represent anything, I’d argue that they represent anti-incumbent sentiment, not anti-Obama or anti-Democratic sentiment.
It’s a tough time to run a state, and it’s hard for you or your party to win when every decision you make is a bad one; when you have to either raise taxes or cut spending, angering your constituents no matter what you do. It’s tough when your state’s budget is constantly shrinking and the unemployment rate is constantly growing, all due to a poor national economy–a poor national economy that you don’t have the resources to fix yourself.
So while Democrats are in charge, they’ve only just begun to implement policies that will fix our lagging economy, and those policies have just started to work–for instance, last quarter we came out of a recession that Obama and the Democrats have been battling since January. So folks like Deeds and Corzine are suffering at the polls because it’s far too early for them to benefit from the eventual results of the Democrat’s economic policies.
The GOP stands to misinterpret these elections at their peril–if they conclude that all is going well for their party and they don’t need to change anything heading into 2010, then I don’t doubt that election won’t go nearly as well as today’s.
UPDATED: Not specifically related to this election, but another CNN poll undermines the argument that the American people are unhappy with the Obama administration/Democratic majority:
The number of Americans who think things are going well in the country today is at its highest level in two years, according to a new national poll.
Thirty-seven percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Tuesday night say that things are going very well or fairly well in the country. That’s the highest number since November 2007, just before the official beginning of the current recession. It also represents a 7-point gain since August and a 12-point gain since October of last year.
UPDATE II: And here’s even more polling showing that today’s elections had little to do with President Obama:
Still, majorities of voters in both states (55 percent in Virginia and 60 percent in New Jersey) said President Obama was not a factor in their vote today. Those who said Mr. Obama was a factor in New Jersey divided as to whether their vote was a vote for the president (19 percent) or against him (20 percent). In Virginia, slightly fewer voters said their vote was for Mr. Obama (18 percent) than against him (24 percent).