Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Gubernatorial Elections: 13 Days Away

The two gubernatorial elections scheduled for this year, in New Jersey and Virginia, are now less than two weeks away.

Earlier this year, the Republican candidates had double-digit leads in the polls in both of those states. The New Jersey race has tightened considerably, while in Virginia, Republican candidate Bob McDonnell has maintained a large lead.

The average poll results, as reported by Real Clear Politics, show McDonnell ahead by 10.9 percentage points over Democrat Creigh Deeds in Virginia, while New Jersey Republican Chris Christie leads incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine by only four tenths of a percentage point.

The biggest development in New Jersey has been the unexpectedly strong independent candidacy of Chris Daggett. He has been appointed to positions in government by elected officials of both parties, but has stronger ties to the Republican Party. The conventional wisdom is that Daggett is siphoning off votes from Christie.

Both of those governorships are currently held by Democrats. A term limit prevents Virginia Governor Tim Kaine from seeking reelection.

So, it looks as though the Republican Party will gain at least one, and maybe two, state houses next month. Two implications:

If they serve their full term, the governors elected this year will have veto power over the redistricting process following the 2010 census, for both U.S. House and state legislative seats.

Also, these elections will be seen as a referendum on the Obama Administration. Is that an accurate reading of elections at the state level? Of course, if things go as expected, Democrats will say "no". Obviously, local issues play a role in gubernatorial elections. But, one year after a presidential election, when the winner of that election is engaged in controversial policy battles, I think the New Jersey and Virginia results can be interpreted as a verdict on President Obama.

That will give some indication of how next year's mid-term congressional elections, and the gubernatorial elections that will held in 2010 in most of the states, will go.

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