Election results hearten Republicans, deal blow to Obama
The 2009 election results in two governor's races are a warning to moderate Democrats worried about 2010 reelection. If they go down, Obama's agenda is imperiled.
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Though most voters in both states said in exit polls the election was not a referendum on the Democratic president, the result sends a warning to moderate Democrats nationwide concerned about their reelection chances next year. That could deal a blow to Mr. Obama's ambitious agenda, foremost healthcare reform and energy legislation, amid continuing high unemployment.
In one bright spot for Democrats, the party's candidate won the special election for the House seat in New York's 23rd district – a takeover of a historically Republican seat. It was a wild contest, marked by dissension within the national GOP, as conservatives effectively drove the Republican nominee out of the race for not being conservative enough.
In the long run, Democrats might actually have preferred that the Conservative candidate win, as it would have emboldened conservatives nationally to take on moderate Republicans in districts and states where the moderate may be a better fit. But for the short term, the victory of Democrat Bill Owens in NY-23 provided the one bright spot in a gloomy night for the party.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's unexpectedly narrow win for reelection to a third term, in which he spent $100 million of his own money, highlighted another theme of the evening: It was a bad night for incumbents. That warning shot, just a year after Obama won on a promise of change that favored Democratic candidates, puts incumbent candidates of both parties on notice for next year. But Democrats, who currently enjoy big majorities in the House and Senate, have more to lose.
The GOP sweep of statewide races in Virginia, in which the governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general all went to Republicans, marked a sharp turn from a year ago. Then, Barack Obama put the state in the Democratic column for the first time in a presidential race since 1964. On Tuesday, Republican Bob McDonnell beat Democrat Creigh Deeds by a whopping 18 percentage points, returning the state to GOP control for the first time in eight years. The Republicans also picked up seats in the state legislature.
In New Jersey, incumbent Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine lost his bid for reelection against Republican Chris Christie, in a heavily Democratic state. Mr. Christie, a former US attorney, won with a plurality 49 percent of the vote, versus 45 percent for Governor Corzine and 6 percent for independent Chris Daggett. Voters in that race told exit pollsters that the economy and jobs were the No. 1 issue, followed by high property taxes. But in a sign that Mr. Christie has his work cut out for him, a majority of voters said they did not believe any of the three candidates had a workable plan to lower property taxes. New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the country.