Andrew Clark: A collapsed majority

There may not have been a drunken celebration outside the White House like last year, but you can bet that the Obama administration has heard loud and clear the message from Tuesday’s election.

Republican Bob McDonnell, who addressed GW conservatives earlier this year in a speech, swept Virginia’s gubernatorial race. Republican Chris Christie, running for governor of New Jersey, exceeded all expectations in his victory. Voters in two states that Obama won in 2008 have firmly rejected the policies of taxing, spending and perpetual unemployment, and elected Republicans to right the economic ship. While Republicans are celebrating their hard-fought victories, the Obama White House and Democrats in Congress should be reminding themselves that it’s time for an adjustment.

GW students campaigned heavily in the state of Virginia, door-canvassing and phone-banking, so both sides knew the stakes of the election and what voters cared about most – jobs. McDonnell, by no means a moderate Republican, nevertheless ignored divisive social issues, campaigning solely on job creation, low taxes and a favorable business climate. This traditional Republican message resonated with the students and voters, who gave McDonnell nearly 59 percent of the vote, the largest Republican win in the state since 1961. Obama’s winning electoral majority in the state from last year absolutely collapsed in on itself. The proportion of youth voters, of whom a majority voted for McDonnell, fell to 10 percent, while independents, half of whom voted for Obama, flocked to McDonnell by 66 percent. The black vote, enthused in 2008, declined by a quarter.

The situation in New Jersey is even more of a nightmare for the Democratic Party. A state that Obama heavily carried in 2008 rejected Democratic economic policies, voting instead for the conservative, reform-minded Christie. Out of the 39 percent of voters who said they were “looking for change,” Christie won 67 percent of them – a dramatic swing from only a year ago. Corzine also out-spent Christie 5 to 1, an ominous warning for Democrats hoping to use Obama’s fundraising prowess to win.

Democrats up for reelection in 2010 should perhaps reconsider their support of controversial bills on health care reform, stimulus spending and taxes. The president campaigned hard for the Democrats in New Jersey and Virginia, both blue states in 2008, and had little impact. If the president can’t even help Democrats get elected in states that voted for him, it seems he’ll be even less useful for Democrats in states that voted against him.

The two House races are even more telling. In 10th district of California, an area that voted for a Democratic congressman by 65 percent in 2008, the Democrat won just 53 percent of the vote, a net 13-point loss. In 23rd district of New York, an insurgent conservative third-party candidate steamed ahead in just one week to garner more than 45 percent of the vote.

The other lesson to be learned from Tuesday’s election is that, despite what the pundits say, the Republican Party and the conservative movement is by no means dead. Not even close. As the Obama administration has pursued costly liberal economic policies while failing to deliver any significant economic recovery, the voters have come to reject what today’s Democratic Party stands for. At the same time, Gallup has recorded a sizeable shift in the American populace toward conservative positions on nearly every issue. Rasmussen has Obama’s approval ratings at new lows. Voters in New Jersey and Virginia elected Republican governors to lead their own states’ economic recoveries.

I’ll leave it to you to do the math. As political junkies at GW, many of us will soon be gearing up for internships and jobs with gubernatorial, senatorial and house campaigns this summer and next fall. The 2010 midterms are still, of course, a year away, but it doesn’t seem like Barack Obama has maintained any sort of reliable governing majority in his first year in office. Not by a long shot.

The writer, a junior majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist and a member of the College Republicans executive board.

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