The newspaper that tried mightily to sink Republican Bob McDonnell over a college thesis says today that his stomping of Creigh Deeds has nothing to do with the man living in the big White House over the northern border of Virginia. Dan Balz, the Washington Post’s political reporter, does allow that the elections in New Jersey and Virginia say plenty about Barack Obama’s party, however. Clearly, the Democrats neither got the turnout they had in 2008 nor the independents, and both of those mean big trouble in 2010:
The most significant change came among independent voters, who solidly backed Democrats in 2006 and 2008 but moved decisively to the Republicans on Tuesday, according to exit polls. In Virginia, independents strongly supported Republican Robert F. McDonnell in his victory over Democrat R. Creigh Deeds, while in New Jersey, they supported Republican Chris Christie in his win over Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine.
For months, polls have shown that independents were increasingly disaffected with some of Obama’s domestic policies. They have expressed reservations about the president’s health-care efforts and have shown concerns about the growth in government spending and the federal deficit under his leadership. …
Many of the young voters who came out in big numbers in 2008 and strongly backed Obama stayed home Tuesday. In Virginia, voters under age 30 accounted for 10 percent of the electorate, half the share they represented last year. In New Jersey, their turnout also was halved.
Meanwhile, the percentage of voters age 65 and older jumped significantly in Virginia and rose measurably in New Jersey. In both states, these voters tilted slightly more Republican than they did a year ago.
Actually, Balz then starts explaining how the election may have been a referendum on Obama. He notes that Obama won voters concerned about the economy a year ago by wide margins, when it was easy to blame George Bush. A year later, the same issue led voters to choose the Republican by even wider margins (75% in New Jersey, 60% in Virginia), according to the exit polls. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, since Obama suffered a seventeen-point swing in his job approval ratings for the economy in the latest CNN poll.
If the election was a referendum on Democrats, which Balz argues, then it was a referendum on Obama, their national leader. That calculation is elementary, but most of the media seems eager to overlook it by swallowing the White House spin on the elections. Gibbs chalked the losses up to “anti-incumbent” fervor, and most of the media failed to remember that Democrats are the incumbent power, as Jonah Goldberg reminds them at The Corner:
But if I might clarify something for the folks at the Today show and elsewhere: Congress is not divided into the Republicans, the Democrats and the much reviled “Incumbents.” The Democratic party is the incumbent party. By no means are all the country’s problems the Democrats’ fault. But the way the Democrats are dealing with those problems are the Democrats’ fault.
There’s a “wrong direction” mood growing and the Democrats are at the helm — with a Democratic supermajority in the Senate, a Democratic majority in the House, and an incumbent-in-chief who wildly over-promised what he could do in the White House.
The president may still be personally popular, but his popularity is declining. Meanwhile his agenda — which has dominated the news for eight months — is unpopular and getting more so.
The Democrats can spin this all they like, and the media can eat it up — but the elections just showed that the electorate is no longer buying what they sell.
Meanwhile, Mark Hemingway thinks he’s found the election’s biggest loser:
While political analysts will be picking apart tonight’s race for days to come, it’s worth noting that Bob McDonnell’s victory in the Virginia governor’s race is also a media story.
It’s one thing for a newspaper to exhibit a certain political viewpoint — that’s to be expected. But the Post’s shameless harping on the next Virginia governor’s decades-old college thesis as proof that he was a secret misogynist was beyond the pale. Perhaps Post felt emboldened by their success at smearing George Allen in his race Senate against Jim Webb, where the paper hammered the dubious assertion that Allen used a bizarre racial slur. In fact, in September the Examiner’s Michael Barone wondered, “Is the Washington Post trying to ‘Macaca’ Bob McDonnell?”
The Post really sold itself out for Deeds — and look how well that turned out. The Post has a few lessons to learn, but as the first hours of spin show, they’re not the only media outlet that needs Remedial Objectivity on their curriculum.