What a difference a year makes!  Just last November then Sen. Barack Obama fueled by anti-Bush and anti-Republican sentiment swept fellow Sen. John McCain to capture the White House.  Exuberance and optimism filled the air as the Democrats also increased their numbers in the Senate and House giving them a feeling of invincibility as they planned to roll back the Republican agenda of the previous eight years.

After his inauguration in January everything started to go downhill fast.  Obama’s promise to not employ lobbyists in his administration was undone by a series of waivers,  the vaunted transparency initiative to make government more accountable is still stuck in a web of secrecy as the administration has learned that being too transparent also means exposing how the government really runs which isn’t a pretty picture.

Obama also promised an ethical administration but has been bogged down by ethical lapses that should have been resolved in the vetting process but were either ignored or overlooked.

In addition to the administrative issues that have dogged Obama during his first year in office have been the legislative failures with both the climate change and health care reform bills that formed the centerpieces of his agenda proving to be far more contentious that he expected and forcing him to abandon his pledge of bipartisanship that he made during the campaign.

Of course Obama’s biggest failure to date has been the economy.  As part of his hope and change strategy he led his supporters to believe that he knew how to turn the economy around and get people back to work.  Well he has been in charge for almost ten months now and despite a promise that unemployment wouldn’t top 8% if his $787 billion stimulus bill was passed the Labor Department announced today that the rate was 10.2% last month marking the first time in 26 years that it had topped the 10% mark.   Home foreclosures have been hitting new records every month despite the actions of the White House to provide relief.   Yet despite these failures he continues to push for more government aid in the hope that it will actually do some good.

But on Tuesday voters including many of those who voted for Obama one year ago started to abandon him in droves in the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial elections.

In Virginia former Attorney General Bob McDonnell cruised to a surprisingly easy win capturing 58% of the vote and bringing with him fellow Republicans for Lt. Gov. and Attorney General.  Plus the GOP picked up six seats in the House of Delegates by ousting Democrat incumbents in Democrat strongholds.

New Jersey was a tighter race as incumbent Gov. John Corzine struggled to overcome corruption scandal issues and managed to garner just 44% of the vote  in a heavily Democrat state.

The White House downplayed the results and said the election wasn’t about Obama but local politics.  If that’s the case then why did Obama make five visits to New Jersey and do robocalls for Corzine if it wasn’t at least partially about him?  Or consider the odd statement the White House put out about the potential loss Creigh Deeds was facing in Virginia by saying that if Deeds loses it was due to the fact he didn’t align himself closely with the president.

Democrats also point to exit polls that showed a majority of voters saying they approved of Obama and that the economy and jobs were the major factor in the results.  Well maybe I’m missing something here but isn’t the president largely in charge of the economy  and jobs?

As Charles Krauthammer pointed out in his column today the myth that Obama’s victory last year signaled an FDR- like realignment was demolished by Tuesday’s results.

In Virginia where Obama won by six points, Bob McDonnell won by 17 – a 23 point swing.  In New Jersey went from plus 15 for the Democrats to minus 4- a 19 point swing.

The key to this change of sentiment was the independent voter.  Last year independents swung narrowly for Obama but in Virginia they voted Republican by a 33 point margin and in New Jersey by an even more shocking 30 points considering the make up of that electorate.

I guess Obama and the Democrats can take some solace in capturing the seat held by former Republican Rep. John McHugh.  But even that is somewhat illusory.  They won 49-46 with about 5% going to the Republican who dropped out and then supported the Democrat.  For a Conservative Party candidate to enter the race late, receive no money from the RNC  and then almost pull out a victory isn’t a big victory for the Democrats.  They’ll hold that seat until the next election, but it is far more likely that the GOP will reclaim it if they run a real campaign.

The only Democrat that I saw that was willing to be honest about the results Tuesday was Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia who said they got “walloped”.

Now that the bloom is off the rose will the Democrats and Obama try and listen to the voters in an effort to save themselves embarrassment next November?  Don’t bet on it.

 

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