As the late Tip O’Neill was fond of saying, all politics is local. The idea that Republican victories in New Jersey and Virginia amount to some sort of repudiation of President Obama is just as silly as the notion that Obama’s endorsement was a key to Democratic victory in a congressional race in upstate New York.
Yet your media are going to spin it as a referendum on Obama. And, mostly, they’re going to ignore New York so they can advance a simplistic — and wrong — script. Indeed, the lead headline on the Web site of the rapidly deteriorating Washington Post this morning proclaims, “A warning to Democrats: It’s not 2008 anymore.” (The actual analysis, by Dan Balz, is more nuanced than that.)
Polling analyst extraordinaire Nate Silver explains all. But his take on Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine’s defeat in New Jersey, I think, is especially worth noting:
Obama approval was actually pretty strong in New Jersey, at 57 percent, but 27 percent of those who approved of Obama nevertheless voted for someone other than Corzine. This one really does appear to be mostly about Corzine being an unappealing candidate, as the Democrats look like they’ll lose just one or two seats in the state legislature in Trenton.
Keep in mind that we’re going to be dealing with the same situation in Massachusetts next year. Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick is unpopular at the moment, and if his numbers remain low, it’s possible that he won’t be re-elected.
If Patrick loses, the national media will dutifully explain that we repudiated Obama. But those of us who live in Massachusetts will know better.