Chris Christie's gutsy win in New Jersey puts the arrogant big spender Jon Corzine in his place. But the election in Virginia probably has more to say to marginal Democratic congressmen who are considering how to vote on healthcare reform.
Obviously, Christie's victory is a body blow to Obama after Corzine outspent the Republican by 5-to-1. Corzine's defeat sends a message that the nation is moving sharply against Obama.
But the Virginia results are the most important. More than 80 Democratic congressmen and 20 senators come from states that McCain carried in 2008. For them, the sudden switch in Virginia, a swing state that Obama actually carried, heralds tough political times ahead.
New Jersey is the quintessential blue state. If it goes Republican, blue-state congressmen need not worry. Their districts probably are still safe. But when a Republican in Virginia wins by 20 points, it sends a message to red-state Democratic congressmen to take cover.
Polls indicate a declining level of popular approval of the Obama policies (Rasmussen shows his job approval at 46 percent), but to see actual Democrats losing or barely squeaking out victories in solidly blue states sends a far clearer message to the Democrats in Congress.
Until Tuesday night, Democratic moderates, the so-called blue dogs, could bask in the light of their candidate’s success in 2008. But now, they must hear hoof beats behind them.
The party discipline on which Obama depends to pass a healthcare program that Americans reject by 55 percent to 42 percent (Rasmussen again) will work only if beleaguered Democratic congressional incumbents can wrap themselves in Obama’s cloak and tough out the popular criticism. But the limits of Obama’s drawing power are readily apparent in the Republicans’ 20-point victory in Virginia and the race in New Jersey.
In the coming weeks, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid will be asking their troops to cast potentially career-ending votes for healthcare changes, Medicare cuts, higher taxes, and fines on the uninsured. Whether they cast those votes depends on their faith in Obama’s drawing power.
But, the votes in Virginia, in particular, show the limits of Obama’s appeal. The new governor, Bob McDonnell, won the attorney general’s race in the last election by a few tenths of a percent over the same opponent. Now, to coast to so huge a victory in the swing state of Virginia has to send a message to red-state Democratic congressmen: Obama may be able to survive in the deep water into which he is leading his party, but you can’t.
The election of 2009 is far more than a contest for two governorships. It is really more in the nature of a British by-election, sending a signal of how the public is reacting to Obama’s radical agenda. Red State Democratic congressmen should take heed
© Dick Morris & Eileen McGann