One year into his presidency and Barack Obama, or more to the point his political clout, suffered a wobble as the Democrats last night lost the governorship of Virginia and saw the incumbent Democratic governor in New Jersey ousted.
Virginia, as the Guardian reports was one of the high points on Obama’s campaign to victory last year in the presidential race, but maybe even more of a blow is the loss of the traditional Democratic seat in New Jersey. It was this race that Obama, weighed down by domestic issues and Afghanistan, and his team were most closely associated with.
The Los Angeles Times says the gubernatorial losses dispels any notion of President Obama’s electoral invincibility, giving the GOP a lift and offering warning signs to Democrats ahead of the 2010 midterm elections.
The Boston Globe, however, cautions that “off-year races” such as Virginia and New Jersey are often sleepy affairs, and reported that turnout for the most part appeared to be low.
It said that voter apathy seemed to belie “the more dramatic narrative that has been hoisted on the races, which political officials have described as high-stakes contests that could shape next year’s congressional agenda and reveal deep divisions within a Republican party seeking a return path to power”.
This was echoed by the New York Times which said that exit polls showed that voters in both states remained strongly supportive of Obama and that the loss in New Jersey might have had more to do with the deeply unpopular Democratic incumbent, Jon S. Corzine, who was marred by scandal and whom no amount of adspend or White House politcal savvy could save.
Gene adds: When we get results like this in off-year elections (which happens frequently regardless of whether the president at the time is Republican or Democrat), the party in control of the White House claims that they are no reflection on the incumbent while the opposition party claims a total repudiation of the incumbent. Both are indulging in wishful thinking.
Another result to throw into the mix is the victory of Democrat Bill Owens in a special Congressional election in a traditionally Republican district in upstate New York. Owens defeated Doug Hoffman, who ran as a third-party candidate and received enthusiastic backing from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. The Republican candidate, Dede Scozzafava, dropped out on the eve of the election and endorsed Owens.