The independent factor

Between work, homework, and reading I needed to do last night, I didn’t have as much time as I might’ve liked to watch the returns on election night. I generally follow politics religiously, so even though I didn’t have as much time as I would’ve liked, I still frequently checked the internet or texted a friend to keep my updated as the results came in.

Aside from the mayoral race in my hometown of Houston, I kept my eyes closely on the two national races that it seemed were given the most attention and coverage: the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey.

Both states went for President Obama in last year’s presidential election, and both of them had sitting Democratic governors.

In Virginia, Republican Bob McDonnell pitted off against Democrat Creigh Deeds. McDonnell’s clear victory ended eight years of Democratic control of the Virginia governor’s seat.

In heavily Democratic New Jersey, Republican Chris Christie beat out Democratic incumbent governor John Corzine, whose administration has been plagued with low approval ratings stemming from voter dissatisfaction over high tax rates. In his victory speech, Christie told the crowd that, “Tomorrow, together, we begin to take back New Jersey.”

The fact that both of these states have undergone such a rapid political realignment from last year’s elections seems to reflect a certain amount of dissatisfaction with the job that the current Democratic administration is doing.

In the 2008 elections, Virginia was viewed and analyzed as an indication that the electorate was shifting to the center-left. After all, Barack Obama was the first Democrat to carry the state in a presidential election in 44 years. However, it seems that with the results of the 2009 election, that prediction may have been too hasty.

Just like in New Jersey, the impact of independent voters seems to be making itself known. Virginia seemed to be a state slowly turning blue. Democratic governors, a Democratic senator, and two consecutive Democratic governors seemed to indicate that. Bob McDonnell ran straight into what seemed to be a political tidal wave, basically having to campaign against the political leanings of his state over the last eight or so years.

Not exactly the ideal political situation for any candidate. Except he did itand he won.

Exit polls indicated a heavy swing of independent voters to the GOP candidates in both states, and considering that these same independents were the ones who were heavily responsible for those states going blue in 2008, it goes without saying that Democrats have reason to be worried as next year’s midterm elections approach.

It seems to be clear that in the wake of the 2008 elections especially, but really since 2006, the Democratic Party has been on the rise. However, to say that they have effectively capitalized on their success would be folly. Last night’s elections clearly indicate that.

Democrats have reason to be concerned because two Republican governors were elected, but what really ought to concern them is who elected them. The independent tide swung to the right last night in what many are calling the first major referendum on the Obama presidency. Given the importance of independents to the Democratic successes of the past, the Republicans have a right to be optimisticand the Democrats have a right to be concerned.

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