Independent Voters Swing to GOP

By Wall Street Journal, Wall Street Journal - November 4, 2009

Republicans aren't normally associated with the Age of Aquarius, but they may be forgiven if they are singing "Let the Sunshine In." The GOP has been flat on its back since the Obama ascendancy in last year's presidential election, but Republican Bob McDonnell's blowout victory over Democrat Creigh Deeds in the Virginia governor's race and Chris Christie's defeat of Jon Corzine in New Jersey should help dispel the party's gloom.

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Republican Governor elect Bob McDonnell waves to the crowd at his victory party in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009.

Yesterday in advance of the results, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was dismissing commentary on the impending bad news as "navel gazing." If so, navel gazing's bad reputation is suddenly looking up. The onrushing Obama Democratic machine has just hit a significant speed bump.

Calling Virginia a bellwether might have been a stretch if the result had been close by anyone's definition. It wasn't.

No state drew more commentary last year as evidence that the national electoral tide was turning blue. Barack Obama was the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry Virginia in 44 years. That victory was called the capstone to a political shift seen in Democrats occupying the governorship the past eight years and Democrat Jim Webb's election to the U.S. Senate in 2006.

When the trend toward the GOP candidate became apparent as election day neared, the White House tried to spin the argument that Mr. Deeds mistakenly kept the Obama agenda at arms length. That was belied by the fact that Mr. Deeds defeated former Democratic National Committee chair Terry McAuliffe in the party's primary. This was taken as evidence that Mr. Deeds, like Senator Webb, would fare better in the southern part of the state by reaching beyond the party's traditional liberal base. That made sense, but it didn't work this time.

Mr. McDonnell ran straight into the teeth of the blue trend, explicitly campaigning against the policies of the Obama presidency. In at least one swing state that matters, the Obama Democratic ascendancy is on hold.

As in Virginia, the really bad news for the Democrats in the New Jersey result is that independent voters swung heavily to the GOP.

The support of independents helped sweep the Obama candidacy into the White House. In nearly 10 months of the new administration, these voters have had a lot of time to undergo a reality check.

None of this is to say that Mr. Obama or the Democrats are about to be swept out to sea. Any President or party riding atop a near-10% unemployment rate is going to hit a few jarring potholes that the $787 billion stimulus didn't fill.

Nor do we gainsay the fact that Mr. Obama and the Democrats were dealt a tough hand with a deep recession and financial crisis. But in New Jersey especially, former Goldman Sachs chief Jon Corzine became governor in the belief his financial industry skills would bring the state's high taxes and high spending under control. He didn't and he lost. If Washington's Democrats keep pushing taxes and spending in the same direction, they may be joining Jon Corzine on the retirement beaches soon.

The overweening liberal-progressive confidence of late suddenly looks misplaced. The party's Blue Dogs have a basis for their misgivings. Republicans, too timid until now, have an opening to find ideas to give obviously anxious voters an alternative to the party in power.

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