Friday, November 11, 2011

2011 Virginia Election Gives Glimpse of 2012 General Election



Since 2011 is an off year for elections, there was one election in Virginia that caught people's attention. Even though Obama won the state in 2008, the last 2 years showed a severe Democrat backlash. All the GOP incumbents in the State House and State Senate won. There is a Republican governor. Also, Virginia Republicans added seven new seats to their majority in the House of Delegates, giving them two-thirds of that chamber's votes—the party's largest margin in history. If I was Obama, I would be very scared in 2012 for a major shellacking.

(WSJ) Of all the noise of this week's state election results, what mattered most for Election 2012 came out of Virginia. It was the sound of the air leaking out of the Plouffe plan.

That would be David Plouffe, President Obama's former campaign manager and current senior strategist, who is focused today on how to cobble together 270 electoral votes for re-election. That's proving tough, what with the economy hurting Mr. Obama in states like Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania that he won in 2008. The White House's response has been to pin its hopes on a more roundabout path to electoral victory, one based on the Southern and Western states Mr. Obama also claimed in 2008.

Virginia Republicans added seven new seats to their majority in the House of Delegates, giving them two-thirds of that chamber's votes—the party's largest margin in history. The GOP also took over the Virginia Senate in results that were especially notable, given that Virginia Democrats this spring crafted an aggressive redistricting plan that had only one aim: providing a firewall against a Republican takeover of that chamber. Even that extreme gerrymander didn't work.

Every Republican incumbent—52 in the House, 15 in the Senate—won. The state GOP is looking at unified control over government for only the second time since the Civil War. This is after winning all three top statewide offices—including the election of Gov. Bob McDonnell—in 2009, and picking off three U.S. House Democrats in last year's midterms.

Topline figures aside, what ought to really concern the White House was the nature of the campaign, and the breakout of Tuesday's election data. Mr. Obama may have big plans for Virginia, but the question is increasingly: him and what army?

Elected state Democrats—who form the backbone of grass-roots movements—couldn't distance themselves far enough from Mr. Obama in this race. Most refused to mention the president, to defend his policies, or to appear with him. The more Republicans sought to nationalize the Virginia campaign, the more Democrats stressed local issues.

Virginia Democrats were happy to identify with one top official: Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, who is providing a lesson in the benefits of smart GOP governance in battleground states. Criticized as being too socially conservative for Virginia when he was elected in 2009, Mr. McDonnell has won over voters by focusing on the economy and jobs. His approval ratings are in the 60s, and he helped raise some $5 million for local candidates. He's popular enough that Democrats took to including pictures of him in their campaign literature, and bragging that they'd worked with him.

Yet Tuesday's results showed the extent to which that support has reversed. Loudoun in particular proved an unmitigated rout for Democrats. Republicans won or held three of four of the county's Senate seats. It swept all seven of the county's House seats. It won all nine slots on the county's Board of Supervisors, and pretty much every other county office. In Prince William, the story was much the same. This is what happens when a recent Quinnipiac poll shows Mr. Obama's approval rating among Virginia independents at 29%.