In the wake of last night’s elections results, a few things come to mind:
This was no Super Tuesday: Sorry MSNBC, but 2 East Coast gubernatorial races and a house race so far up north in New York that it has more Canadians voting than any other bloc do not a super day make. This was more like a nor’easter of charismatic-less candidates. Except for the name Scozzafozza. Its Italian phonetic glee makes you want to throw caution to the wind and dig into some penne a la vodka, while watching Fozzie Bear on a TV Land Muppet Show rerun.
Coattails are overrated: Obama didn’t affect these elections. These races for governor appear to have been about issues on the ground. In New Jersey, incumbent Jon Corzine is highly unpopular. There are a lot of reasons why this may be: for instance, he presides over the highest property taxes levied in the history of the state and has a Wall Street pedigree at a bad time to be known for that. Plus, he didn’t wear a seat belt. In Virginia, the GOP’s Bob McDonnell won handily with a focus on local issues and kitchen table common sense. He didn’t spend his time ragging on Obama. The Washington Post validated that choice persuasively with an incisive and revealing poll: 70% of Virginia voters said Obama would not be a factor in their decision, and those who said he would were split evenly between the Democrat and the Republican. So, no net effect.
Obama’s inertness here is a double-edged sword. On one side of the blade, it shows that Obama is just not popular enough to swing elections that are not about him, meaning he doesn’t have coattails. Grip the hilt and flip to the other side of the blade. It’s the inverse: all politics is local and he couldn’t affect these provincial votes if he wanted to, despite reasonable popularity in these places. In the end, these outcomes are victories for Republicans but they are not a referendum on Obama. Let’s see if that seeps in as the health care legislation sloths its way to conclusion.
Gay marriage legislation is in a slump: Maine is a fascinating state for its political independence and contradictions of convention: its as far northeast as you can get, yet it has two Republican senators. As Maine put gay marriage to a vote, there was a fair chance its moderate, even-keeled electorate might go with four other states in New England and give same-sex partners the matrimonial green light. Not so. It appears to have been defeated by a few percentage points. This continues the streak of losses “in every single state — 31 in all — in which it has been put to a popular vote.” Many prominent writers and politicians still agree that time is on the side of this wedge issue, but it’s foundering. Which raises the issue: is there a fundamental tactical shortcoming in the way that campaign orchestrators are approaching building support for gay marriage? Or are they just going to need to wait impatiently until the general population gets older and presumably more tolerant?
Money isn’t everything, but it still works: Bill Thompson lost the race for the New York City mayoralty to Mike Bloomberg by less than 5%, barely over 50,000 votes. Based on available cash, this is stunning. It would be like the Nationals battling from last place to the World Series and losing to the Yankees in seven games. Bloomberg spent about $85 million. Thompson was only able to scrounge together $7 million, and that’s with matching funds. Yet, he came unexpectedly close to knocking down a short Jewish man. (It’s harder than it sounds.) So, were the polls inaccurate, or did a last minute protest vote pick up support? Gawker’s scathing anti-endorsement couldn’t have helped Bloomberg. If Thompson was an inspiring candidate what might have happened? I guess this outcome shows that there is nothing like anti-entitlement outrage, overdoses of direct mail, and disenfranchisement (for not being able to vote on term limits) to rile up the citizens of this bitter ‘burg. But Mayor Mike still won. It’s kind of akin to countering guerrilla warfare. You have to have about 10 times the men, or in this case, the money, to eke out the victory.