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The Daily Grind (Election Spin Edition)

9:13 AM, Nov 4, 2009 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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CNN is helpful for the White House this morning, offering this banner on its Politics page:


One CNN prominent analysis is, "This time, all politics was local" by left-leaning pollster Nate Silver. He leads with the Conservative Party loss in NY-23 (the fault of conservative activists for not understanding the moderate needs of the distirct, he says), moves on to New Jersey (solely the fault of Corzine for being lame), and finally comes to Virginia (Hmm, maybe there's a case that an 18-point win for a Republican in a state Obama carried a year after his election has something to do with Obama.)

Silver's a smart guy who's right about a lot of things, but leading with a Congressional race that speaks to an internal GOP struggle in a race of extenuating circumstances rather than two huge gubernatorial wins (one of them almost entirely unexpected in deep-blue New Jersey where Obama has been campaigning aggressively) betrays his bias. I think he's right about Owens' grasp of local issues over Hoffman's, but Scozzafava was not the responsible moderate alternative the media says she is.

But even the New York Times is having trouble papering over the implications. Conclusion: the magic is gone.

The results in the New Jersey and Virginia races underscored the difficulties Mr. Obama is having transforming his historic victory a year ago into either a sustained electoral advantage for Democrats or a commanding ideological position over conservatives in legislative battles.

The coalition that swept him into the White House was absent on Tuesday night, with evidence that the young, African-American and first-time voters who supported Mr. Obama failed to turn out to help the Democrats Mr. Obama had campaigned for: Gov. Jon S. Corzine in New Jersey and R. Creigh Deeds in Virginia. (There are no exit polls in the upstate Congressional race to provide demographic information on the electoral outcome.)

Independent voters who had flocked to Mr. Obama in Virginia and New Jersey last year shifted on Tuesday to the Republican candidates in both states, Christopher J. Christie in New Jersey and Robert F. McDonnell in Virginia, according to exit polls in both states. That is a swing that will certainly be noted by moderate Congressional Democrats facing re-election next year, who may now be more reluctant to support Mr. Obama on tough votes in Congress.

Let's take a minute to recall whether the Democratic campaigns in New Jersey and Virginia wanted voters to think they had anything to do with Obama. Those flashbacks to '08 are brought to you by the Democratic Party.

But DNC head Tim Kaine has this to say about those races that had absolutely nothing to do with Obama:

Kaine said that both Democratic hopefuls, Creigh Deeds and Jon Corzine, were strong candidates, but faced uphill battles. Both states tend to vote for the party that is not in power in the White House in their off-year gubernatorial elections. "It would have been historic if not unprecedented to win one or both of these races given historical trends,'' he said.

Kaine downplayed the notion that these races were a referendum on President Obama.
"These races turned on local and state issues and circumstances and on the candidates in each race - and despite what some will certainly claim - the results are not predictive of the future or reflective of the national mood or political environment,'' he said.

Indeed, a Republican winning statewide election in New Jersey for the first time in 12 years was utterly expected, Gov. Kaine.