Spinning the Election Results: 2009

Two governorships and one seat in the House of Representatives were up for grabs in 2009, and precisely because there was so little to talk about, much ink was spilled and hot air blown over the results in these three places.  Republicans argue that by winning the governors races in Virginia and New Jersey and narrowly losing the House seat in New York, the electorate is turning back to them.  Throw in the fact that Maine residents voted out same-sex marriage, Republicans argue, and you have the makings of a full-blown conservative revolution.

Democrats are arguing that their victory in the NY race–where a Republican held the seat before taking a job in the Obama administration–shows that they are on as solid ground as ever.  The Democratic loser in New Jersey has been labeled personally unpopular, and their candidate in VA was chastised for ignoring White House advice regarding strategy.  Final score=one Democratic victory and two explainable defeats.

How does this affect Barack Obama’s standing?  Not much.  He did make multiple trips to New Jersey to prop up his party’s candidate there, but, really, there will be a lot of elections between now and then, and currently his approval ratings are still pretty strong.

What is interesting to me is the difficulty that the Main Stream Media is having with how to shape the narrative for all of this.  Critics of the MSM recently pointed out just how big one percentage point can be.  When traditional marriage proponents won the voting by 6% in Maine at least one writer characterized it as a “narrow margin,” but President Obama’s 7% popular vote victory over John McCain last year was widely seen as a landslide.

When Republican governor Bob McDonnell was running in Virginia, the Washington Post commented frequently on his conservative views.  After his victory one Post columnist agreed with a White House advisor that McDonnell was “a Barack Obama centrist.” Really?

Finally, Republican voters were characterized as “angry.”  I remember the same thing being said when Republicans re-took the House of Representatives in 1994 after 40 years of Democrat domination.  Interestingly, I don’t recall reading much about angry Democrat voters in 2008 when their candidates won big and the Republicans were booted from power.  Call me crazy, but I think there are happy people and angry people on both sides.

The mistake that both parties make is that they don’t see, or don’t want to admit, that the pendulum swings back and forth in this country.  Whenever either party has the upperhand, they crow that the country is moving inexorably in their direction and the other party is obsolete.  The reality is that when people feel good about their situation and the country’s situation, they tend to vote for the party in power.  When people are unhappy with the current state of affairs, whether it be the economy, social issues, or whatever, they are more open to the party that is out of power.