Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Were elections a referendum on Obama? Kinda

A day after Virginia and (gasp!) New Jersey elected Republican governors, the Obama-loving media is eager to spin the results as being anything but a referendum on Barack Obama. Actually, they were so eager, the spin started the day before the election. this morning has an analysis piece by Mark Preston titled "Elections not a referendum on Obama". Well, I guess that settles it. Preston does provide some polling data to support his assertion:
While the economy and jobs were the chief concern for voters in both states, 26 percent of New Jersey residents said property taxes was also a major issue, while another 20 percent mentioned corruption, according to CNN exit polling. In a similar CNN survey taken in Virginia, health care was the most important issue for 24 percent of the voters, while 15 percent named taxes and transportation was mentioned by 7 percent.

Further proof that this election was not solely focused on Obama, 56 percent of Virginians said that the president was not a factor when it came down to their vote. In New Jersey, that number increased to 60 percent of the people who went to the polls on Tuesday.
But who does Preston quote when it comes time to lay out a winning 2010 strategy for Democrats? Veteran political mastermind Former movie producer and far-left blogger Jane Hamsher.
"I would suggest that appealing to Republican interests is not the best way to turn out Democrats," Hamsher said. "It is just a fact of life. They have to turn out Democrats."
Wow, thanks for the keen insight, Jane.

I'm in no way a political strategist, but I know a thing or two about human nature. The average voter - that is to say the non-partisan who doesn't spend every waking hour consuming political news and tends to vote from the gut - isn't happy. At an emotional, adolescent level he still might be infatuated with Barack Obama, but on a less conscious (and perhaps more intellectual level) he knows Democratic policies are not improving things and may in fact be making things worse.

Young voters turned out overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008. But as Preston notes:
On Tuesday, the Obama magic did not rub off on Corzine or Deeds.

In New Jersey, while Corzine overwhelmingly won among African-Americans, only 14 percent of the vote was black; young people, age 18 to 29, made up 9 percent of the vote and 36 percent of them backed Republican Chris Christie. Meanwhile, 60 percent of independents supported Christie as well.

The numbers were worse for Deeds in Virginia. Ten percent of the electorate was age 18 to 29 and Republican Bob McDonnell captured 54 percent of this voting bloc. Deeds overwhelmingly carried the African-American vote that made up16 percent of people who turned out on Tuesday, while 66 percent of voters who identified themselves as independents backed McDonnell.
The black vote might be lost in perpetuity to the GOP, but young voters can often swing either way. In New Jersey, they simply failed to show up in enough numbers to change the outcome. In Virginia, they also failed to show up in significant numbers, but those that did voted heavily for McDonnell. That does not bode well for Virginia Democrats in 2010.

So while Obama may not have been a specific target for voter backlash, he's losing his influence over a key voting bloc...he's losing his mojo. And even if last night's elections weren't specifically a referendum on Obama, they might have been more generally a referendum on Democratic policies.

The odd outcome of this is that if the trend continues into the 2010 mid-term elections and Democrats lose the significant majority they now hold in Congress, Democratic policies will either be tabled or seriously diluted going forward. That could set the stage for another Obama win in 2012 if a more sound fiscal policy returns to Washington.

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