In 2009, the message from the electorate was: “Yes, we can!” In 2009, the message from the electorate was: “You haven’t yet!”
Too much can be read into these results. This is my opinion of what this may mean.
Christe In New Jersey
Jon Corzine isn’t stupid: he was Chairman of Goldman Sachs. He doesn’t lack heart: he is a former Marine. However, he really didn’t accomplish much of anything in New Jersey. Property taxes remain the highest in the nation. Economic growth is nonexistent and recovery is sluggish, making people who are trying to re-trench financially more conscious of the excessive taxes.
Corzine was distracted as governor. He was distracted by his recovery from his 2007 auto wreak (while speeding in a state vehicle) and by coverage of his relationship with public sector union lobbyist Carla Katz. He was involved in a number of failed or embarrassing policy initiatives, like the 2006 Government shutdown and the Dubai ports controversy. While he was an honest man, indictments of several corrupt New Jersey politicians during his term reminded voters of long standing issues with municipal and public sector union corruption in the state.
Christe, in contrast, was the US Attorney who obtained multiple indictments and convictions in these cases, including Newark’s infamous Sharpe James. A moderate Republican, he was pushed towards a tax reform message by the Primary challenge of tax reform crusader Steve Lonegan.
Despite the amount of time the President spent in New Jersey campaigning for Corzine, I think this is less a referendum on Pres. Obama than a sign that a Chief Executive perceived as ineffective in a high tax state or locality is at risk.
This was true, not only in New Jersey, but in New York, where long-serving County Executive Andy Spano in Westchester was handily defeated by a republican newcomer. Out on Long Island, Tom Suozzi has apparently barely survived a challenge as Nassau County Executive. Orange County, after flirting with the Democrats at the local level for a few years, is back to being rock-ribbed Republican, Reddest of Red Counties.
Since several Blue States in addition to New Jersey (such as Michigan, California and NY) are in this same situation, this may even be a potential threat to the Democrats surviving as a national party. What happens to a party that controls nothing? Ask the Federalists and the Whigs.
I see this as more of a referendum on Pres. Obama.
He just has not delivered enough on economic issues to keep the extraordinary mandate he received by being the first Democrat to take Virginia since LBJ in 1964. Additionally, the Virginia Democrats just don’t have a deep bench.
The Conservative candidate lost, but a conservative candidate won. That is the critical take-away.
Owen is a fiscally conservative former Air Force officer. He was an ideal candidate for this District, just as Scott Murphy was for the NY 20th. In contrast, the Republican County Chairs seem not to have gotten the message that this is a conservative district and that, outside of certain catchment areas, NY is a Red State.
The big disadvantage that NY Republicans have in 2010 is their own leadership. The new state chairman, Cox, may make a real difference. Sarah Palin and the Tea Party/Patriot movement saw and exploited this opportunity before the “wise men, ” not a great sign for NY Republicans.
What to Do
The Administration needs to pull sharp right, especially on economic issues. You just can’t solve a debt crisis with more debt, although many households tried back in the “Re-fi Economy.” (Which may be why average voters know that now.)
Everyone in the Administration needs to read (and understand) these:
The Democrats just can’t figure out it is no longer 1932. A young working man at a political meeting I attended this summer, not a guy you would pick out as politically active, got up and said, “We want freedom, not bullshit.” Democrats better figure that one out fast.
Think about how to get rid of Pelosi and Reid before Christmas. They are the death knell to any hope of Democrats keeping Congress in 2010.
Call in Rep. Paul Ryan and Newt Gingrich. Ryan’s health care bills are far better than anything the Democrats have offered and the Administration needs a win.
If the economy recovers, even a bit anemically, a personally popular President can still be re-elected with a wide margin, as Pres, Reagan was in 1984, despite hard times early on.
The Republicans need to push financial responsibility and limited government. The defeat of gay marriage in Maine shows that the country is socially conservative, but you have more than enough material with the economy, Constitutional overreach by the Federal government and the debt. (Which are fundamentally related issues.)
Nothing is beyond change at this point, but the Administration better start thinking hard.