Of Course These Votes Were About Obama

Of Course These Votes Were About Obama

By Mark Davis - November 5, 2009

Now this is change I can believe in.

Remember the stories written one year ago today, the morning after the Barack Obama win? It wasn't just about him, said the prevailing analysis. This was a giant reset button, a realignment of American politics, which had skewed mostly Republican since Reagan.

We were told the Obama election was a pivotal event signaling a repudiation of all of those nasty things Republicans had been selling and an embrace of the Democratic brand that could leave the GOP reeling for years.

But the people of Virginia and New Jersey have now suggested otherwise, electing Republican governors in one state that Obama won comfortably and another that he won decisively.

From the White House down, the Democrats' spin is that these were elections based largely on local issues, not referendums on the young presidency.

Please. If a Democrat had won either state, administration operatives would have stumbled over each other to proclaim the resiliency of the Obama agenda.

The defeated Democrats in Virginia and New Jersey were the face and voice of Obama's policies in their states. If either had lost by a sliver, one could argue that issues from property taxes to state pension funds might have made the difference.

But the fact is that Chris Christie campaigned across New Jersey with frequent references to how the modern Democratic Party is leading America down a road of profligate spending and oppressive government intervention. Meanwhile, wealthy incumbent Jon Corzine's themes were a mirror of Obama's positions on health care, taxes and the environment.

In a state Obama won by 15 points a year ago, Christie won by a comfortable 4. This nearly 20-point swing in a union-heavy, ACORN-heavy blue state strikes fear in Democrats' hearts, whether they admit it or not.

In Virginia, Republican Bob McDonnell dominated in another Obama '08 state with conservative criticism of the wildly radical status quo of skyrocketing deficits and government overreach. His win obliterates last year's momentary conventional wisdom that Obama/Pelosi-style government can stay popular in the South.

So if these wins are sufficiently gloat-worthy, doesn't the win by Democrat Bill Owens in New York's closely watched 23rd Congressional District mitigate the glee a little?

Sure. A little.

But look at what actually happened. The state Republican Party anointed a thoroughly unworthy standard bearer in liberal Dede Scozzafava, who torpedoed her reputation even further by endorsing the Democrat as she bailed out of the race last week.

Doug Hoffman, a third-party conservative virtually unknown mere weeks ago, lost by 49 to 46 percent. Clinging to the only comforting narrative available, liberal analysts crowed that this was a renunciation of the voices that backed him, from Rush Limbaugh to Sarah Palin.

We'll see about that, and soon. Hoffman (or any real conservative) will have that support again next year when actual voters, not party officials, pick the Republican candidate. I would not advise Mr. Owens to buy a house in the Washington area.

The ripples of this election may be visible as soon as noon today, as Republican House members - including Michael Burgess and Joe Barton of the North Texas delegation - gather on the Capitol steps to oppose the mammoth spending and suffocating government control of the Democrats' health care bill.

Unlike the Democratic event heralding the bill's unveiling, the general public is welcome this time, guaranteeing attendance by the kind of people who made Election '09 a major blow to the current one-party rule.

It is not time to predict Republican congressional majorities in 2010 or an Obama defeat in 2012. But seeing the radical policies that once lay beneath the pretty paper of "hope" and "change," many independents, seniors and other constituencies may be rethinking 2008 and looking for the first opportunity for some healthy ballot-box repentance.

Mark Davis hosts a radio talk show in Dallas-Fort Worth and is a free-lance columnist for The Dallas Morning News.

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