By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

All politics is (still) local

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.

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  1. lkcape

    Two key elements to yesterday’s election that are not in dispute in spite of the popularity (or lack thereof) of the candidtes..

    1) The minority bases that drove a part of Obama’s success in 2008 did not vote in the same numbers. And,

    2) Independents broke to the right, not to the left.

    Repudiation? No.

    Endorsement? Also, no.

    Caution flag? Most assuredly.

  2. Agreed. “Daily Show” last night had fun with cable talking heads going off about the seismic reverberations of the election. 2010 & 2012 vote won’t be influenced by Corzine loss, where NJ voters were put off by corruption in administration, or by GOP winning in traditional GOP VA, where the state’s vote for Obama was a repudiation of W., or in NY where carpetbagger/tea-bagger Hoffman lost despite the support of the “powerful” Beck, Limbaugh & Palin trio. Polls showing “warning signs” for Obama are nonsense in that they never reflect that those questioned are rarely excited about any potential GOP opponent, but are just criticizing Dems in a vacuum.

  3. Newshound

    I think the media tries almost too hard to have a lot of fun with this the same as the fun we have on this blog.

    Some people such as Matthews, O’Reilly, Limbaugh and Coulter to name a few, not only have a lot of fun but are well rewarded financially, too. Does anyone really and truly care anymore if Mumbles is Democrat, Republican or Christian, or even alive . . . I know – – – that’s stretching it to make the point.

    Someone commented to me this morning: “Obama didn’t make too well in yesterday’s election.”

    It’s not about Obama. We should all be thinking for ourselves about what is best for us collectively as a society.

    It’s about the people. Not Obama.

  4. njdog

    Today’s Star-Ledger was particularly embarrassing. On the front page, statehouse reporters Josh Margolin and Claire Heininger tell us that Chris Christie won “in a race viewed as an early referendum on President Obama.” By whom this view is held they never say. Yet on the front of the very next section of the paper, we see a big graphic of an exit poll stating that for 60 percent of the electorate, Obama was not a factor. You wonder if the reporters read their own paper.

  5. Dunque

    I guess it’s left to me to point out that President Obama did visit the state a number of times to implore Jerseyites to continue Corzine to office.

    I think Ikcape has it right.

    For President Obama the larger worry is that centrist Democrats and those Democrats to their right will shy away from his legislative agenda because they will interpret those results as a repudiation as well.

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