Green Room

For whom the bellwether tolls

posted at 12:50 am on November 2, 2009 by

The White House take that tomorrow’s trifecta of elections (in Virginia, New Jersey and NY-23) does not portend much for the future is spin, but it is not a complete fiction.

After all, New York and New Jersey are two of the most Obama-friendly states in the Union. Democrat wins in NY-23 and New Jersey may not say much more than that. Indeed, if Democrats win there by narrow margins, it may say that, a year after Obama won the presidency, it takes nasty three-way contests for Democrats to win in Obama-friendly territory.

The hope on the left is that NY-23 is a bellwether of intra-GOP warfare, or of the party being seized by “extremists”. However, most such fights will happen within primaries, which allows more time for unification. And few of those will feature “Republican” candidates as liberal as Dede Scozzafava.

The establishment media may try to paint Jon Corzine’s comeback as the result of “hitching himself to Obama,” but anyone who has followed the race knows that the only hitching involved was hiring Joel Benenson from Camp Obama to spend about $20 million on ads viciously and personally attacking Chris Christie.

The real bellwether election is Virginia. In 2008, Virginia was considered a bellwether — a red state that was trending blue in recent cycles, electing Gov. Tim Kaine and Sens. Jim Webb and Mark Warner. Barack Obama won in Virginia by 52.62% to 46.33% –about the same margin as he did nationwide. And yet, barring a massive failing by every polling outfit in the race, the GOP’s Bob McDonnell will likely defeat Creigh Deeds in the governor’s race, and the GOP will likely pick up seats in the state assembly.

The left has already started their spin that the Virginia election is not about Obama. But if Obama is not on the ballot in Virginia figuratively (as well as literally), that will be of little solace to Dems running in 2010 — when Obama will also not be on the ballot. Indeed, when you read Camp Obama’s anonymous dumping on Deeds, you find this:

A senior administration official said Deeds badly erred on several fronts, including not doing a better job of coordinating with the White House. “I understood in the beginning why there was some reluctance to run all around the state with Barack Obama,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly about the race. “You don’t do that in Virginia. But when you consider the African American turnout that they need, and then when you consider as well they’ve got a huge problem with surge voters, younger voters, we were just a natural for them.”

In other words, the idea of Deeds hitching himself to Obama only started looking like a strategy after Deeds started looking like a disaster that could be averted only by campaigning on the notion that Deeds was Obama. That is fairly insulting to the voters of Virginia, who undoubtedly can tell the difference between the two men.

Granted, if Christie and Hoffman pull off wins, it will mean that the bell is tolling louder and carrying further than anyone would have dreamed a year ago. But Virginia is enough to confirm what Democracy Corps already discovered in their polling of swing districts — the reelect and issue numbers for Democrats are steadily eroding where it counts.

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Very nice analysis, Karl.

di butler on November 2, 2009 at 9:02 AM

The chickens are coming home to roost for the Obooboo “administration”.

NoDonkey on November 2, 2009 at 1:31 PM

A nation of free people does not respond well to a cult of personality. Obama’s “charisma” is just as shallow as the depth of his experience. We’ll see of Obama’s touch becomes contra-Midas–> the touch of feces.

BottomLine5 on November 2, 2009 at 1:31 PM

New Jersey is a close call, but…I think NY-23 is in the bag. :D

Orange Doorhinge on November 2, 2009 at 1:34 PM

the reelect and issue numbers for Democrats are steadily eroding where it counts.

Independents and the elderly, to name just two…

Schadenfreude on November 2, 2009 at 1:35 PM

If Corzine loses (which he probably will), Obama won’t hesitate to dump him under the bus either. All Dems (not just Blue Dogs) need to realize they are on their own. Their leadership doesn’t care one bit about them. If you can’t gerrymander your way to victory, hasta la vista, baby; Nancy, Harry, and Barry have more important things to do.

At some point the Dem voters may realize that they don’t matter much either. Many Obama supporters are getting an inkling of that. Part of the 2010 bloodbath may be due to dissaffected Dems just staying home, much like the Conservatives did in 2008 with Lindsey Graham’s boyfriend.

EMD on November 2, 2009 at 1:35 PM

Afghanistan was Obama’s first election fail.

faraway on November 2, 2009 at 1:38 PM

For guaranteed political death, hitch your election to Barry’s star.

GarandFan on November 2, 2009 at 1:42 PM

Why is The Precedent campaigning in NJ and VA (instead of sending Troops to Afghanistan) if it is not about him? I call that dereliction of duty.

antisocial on November 2, 2009 at 1:52 PM

While a McDonnell win in Virginia (which seems VERY likely) would be a serious reversal, IMHO New Jersey is the real bellwether. It has always been a very Democrat state, and Obama has been actively campaigning for Corzine, so that a Christie win would be a serious rebuke to Obama. Corzine hasn’t helped himself by raising taxes and failing to rein in rampant corruption, plus as a former Goldman-Sachs executive, he has been tarnished with the banking-Wall Street collapse.

If Christie does win, the real test will be how he governs. Will he take on the good-ol’ boy network so pervasive in New Jersey? Will he push for fiscal conservatism, or will he be a RINO like Whitman? While there’s no way that a social-issues conservative can win statewide in New Jersey, by solid fiscal governance, Christie could conceivably sell a majority of NJ voters on lower taxes and balanced budgets.

He could become for NJ what Jodi Rell has become for CT–a socially moderate but fiscally conservative Republican Governor in a blue state, whom voters trust to hold in check (via vetoes) the spending excesses of a Democrat legislature.

As for NY-23, it’s such a normally conservative district that a Democrat win (which could have occurred if both Hoffman and Scozzafava stayed in) would be something for Democrats to crow about. Hoffman is a much better fit to that district than Scozzafava, so that Dede did everyone a “fava” by dropping out. The lesson here for the GOP is, if a conservative can win, run one.

Steve Z on November 2, 2009 at 2:17 PM

And so the bell shall toll.

ted c on November 2, 2009 at 3:58 PM

Virginia’s more of a bellweather for the 2012 presidential election. New Jersey’s the bellweather for 2010 because it’s so much harder for Republicans to turn the latter, unless the public is angry at Democrats not just at the state and local level, but at the national one as well.

Remember, the GOP couldn’t win N.J. in 2005, even after a corrupt Democratic governor had tried to make his gay boyfriend the head of the state’s homeland security division in the wake of Sept. 11. Corzine won because he was not Jim McGreevy and the Democrats were still able to pass the buck for their failures up to the White House and the then-GOP run Congress. Those options are gone and if the New Jersey Republicans are smart enough to get enough people with video cameras out in the most likely ACORN-influenced precincts on Tuesday, Corzine has a good chance of also disappearing.

jon1979 on November 2, 2009 at 4:36 PM

If you apply the Partisan Voting Index, which compares a district’s prior presidential results to national averages, you find that there are 66 Democrats in House districts with a Republican PVI and only 15 Republicans in districts with a Democratic PVI–a similar situation to the 79 Democrats in Republican districts in 1994.

That’s why VA — and the Greenberg/Carville polling of swing districts — tell the story.

Karl on November 2, 2009 at 6:27 PM