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Richard Larsen: Obama’s Midas Touch is Gone

November 9th, 2009 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

To an extent, both major political parties can claim some victories from Tuesday’s elections. But there are some certainties that can be gleaned from the outcomes, one of which is that President Obama’s Midas touch is now gone. Having actively campaigned for gubernatorial incumbents Jon Corzine in New Jersey, and Creigh Deeds in Virginia, Obama’s efforts in their behalf were rebuffed, as both lost, and Deeds, handily. Considering the national mood, they may well have lost because of Obama, rather than in spite of him.

As important as the outcomes were for many, perhaps more significant is the pattern which seems to be in evidence. That pattern looms even larger in light of comments after last year’s election which had all but buried the last vestiges of the GOP.

After a disastrous attempt to force socialized medicine on the country during Clinton’s first term, voters swung the political pendulum away from the power grab by gaining the Virginia and New Jersey governorships in 1993. What followed in 1994 was a record gain by Republicans as they retook control of the House and the Senate after maintaining minority status for over 40 years.

As former Clinton advisor D. Morris points out, the election outcomes for Virginia this week are virtually identical with 1993 results. The Clinton administration backed the Democrat candidate, Mary Sue Terry for governor. Terry lost by a 58% to 41% margin, virtually identical with Deeds’ margin of defeat this week.

In New Jersey, the pattern is equally evident, as the 1993 election featured Democrat Jim Florio seeking reelection against Republican Christie Todd Whitman. The race was close but Whitman, who later served as EPA Administrator in the Bush administration, pulled off the upset. So likewise for 2009, the New Jersey gubernatorial race was close but Democrat incumbent governor Jon Corzine was defeated by former US Attorney Chris Christie in one of the most liberal states in the country. Christie’s victory marks the first statewide election victory by a Republican in New Jersey in 12 years.

The compelling question is whether the trend will continue into 2010 as it did in 1994, when all 435 congressmen and a third of the senators are up for reelection. It probably has much more to do with which party is most motivated next year. Based on this year’s election results, the Tea (Taxed Enough Already) Parties, and massive demonstrations across the land against administration policies and congressional actions infringing on individual liberty, it would appear that the right of the political spectrum is most motivated for the time being. I have a sneaking hunch that the chagrin over how the country has lurched left will not subside by then.

The economic climate is much different now than it was in 1993 or 1994. By 1993 the minor recession at the end of the George H. W. Bush administration was already ended, unemployment was hovering at about 7% and dropping, while now it is at 10.2%, and likely to go higher before it begins to improve. Also, the budget deficit was narrowing at that time, in stark contrast to the monstrous deficit created in just ten months that dwarfs the government debt of the previous 233 years. While GDP has turned positive for the third quarter ‘09, there can be no real improvement on main street unless the employment picture begins to improve.

If the hubris manifest by the administration and congressional leaders continues unabated after this electoral rebuke in New Jersey and Virginia, many of them, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, could be adding to that 10% unemployment rate. And many of us will rejoice at them being in the unemployment lines they created.

There is no doubt that statistically the country is more conservative than liberal. As I have mentioned before, question D3 on the bipartisan Battleground Poll provides the evidence. 60% of the American electorate considers itself to be at least somewhat conservative.

Many of that majority didn’t bother to vote last year since they didn’t feel like they had a horse in the race. If they truly care about this country, you can bet they won’t be sitting out the next few elections.

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