The Sky Doesn't Fall With Deeds
by Jason Rosenberg, Sun Nov 01, 2009 at 08:46:51 AM EST
This Tuesday voters in Virginia and New Jersey go to the polls to vote for Governor. But the way that the media is portraying it, you'd think there's a special election in these two states on President Obama's agenda. News stories have been out for months about what the results of Tuesday's elections will have on the Obama agenda. The media seem to suggest that Tuesday's elections will be a precursor to the 2010 mid-term elections.
In Friday's Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove wrote that if Virginians do what it looks like they might do and vote for Republican governors in Virginia, a state that Obama won in 2008, and "[if] Republicans also win the races for lieutenant governor and attorney general by five points or more, it will strengthen the case of those predicting a GOP "wave" in 2010."
While New Jersey's Governor's office looks like it will stay in the hands of Jon Corzine, polls suggest that the Virginia voters will elect a Republican to the Governor's mansion for the first time since 2001. Virginia, which was solidly Republican state, has elected two Democratic governors, voted Republicans out of control of the statehouse and has two Democratic Senators in Jim Webb and former-governor Mark Warner. So doesn't a Republican Bob McDonnell win Democrat Creigh Deeds spell disaster for the Democrats momentum in Virginia and the national Democrats chances in 2010?
The answer is no.
Even though the election of 2000 was drawn out with litigation and ended in a Supreme Court decision, the day he was sworn into office, President Bush had an approval rating of above 60 percent. Everywhere he went people talked about "Cowboy Diplomacy" and the president could get whatever he wanted, including tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. He was unstoppable. Then came 9/11. In the days that followed, Bush comforted the nation, promised revenge and won the support of allies and foes alike. The president was polling in the 90 percent range in the days that followed the terrorist attacks. Again the president got what he what he wanted from Congress: The Patriot Act, more power for the Executive Branch, support for war. But just seven weeks later, while stumping in Virginia and New Jersey, even with poll numbers in the 80, even with huge crowds waiting to hear him speak, even with a celebrity agenda, even with having started the strike against the Taliban and al-Qadea, Democratic businessman Mark Warner defeated Republican Mark Earley by about four points in the Governor's election.
Did Mark Warner's election spell defeat for the Bush agenda? Did the war in Afghanistan stop? Were war plans for the invasion of Iraq put on hold? Were tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans repealed? Was the Patriot Act pulled back to alleviate concerns from privacy rights advocates?
Of course it wasn't.
The Bush agenda kept chugging along. That's even after the first sign the Administration was too close with big business with the fall of Arthur Anderson, Enron and more. While Bush's approval ratings weren't where they were in the days following 9/11, Republican candidates were clamoring for the president's attention, Democratic candidates said they supported Bush's call for "regime change" in Iraq, Bush was in demand and was hot. In the end voters came out to vote for Republicans and not Democrats who were Republicans-lite. The 50-50 split in the Senate was broken and the GOP made gains in the house by huge Republican gains in the south and in the mid-west.
These gains were made because the Republicans had a president who was bolstered by international events, high approval ratings and one war with another looming. The country was comfortably in Republican control.
And while we know what happened after that, a culture of corruption, poor management of both wars, the ouster of the GOP majority and an Administration that is looked upon as a complete failure, it's worth remembering that President Bush was once this country's most popular president of all time. And even with that kind of approval his popularity could not deliver Virginia to a Republican candidate.