Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Let the Spin Begin

President Obama and other Democrats are trying to spin the disastrous election night results that found candidates that Obama supported losing to Republican challengers in Virginia and New Jersey. They also have to be wondering if the failure to campaign for another Democrat might have cost Bill Thompson a chance at upsetting incumbent NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

First, let's start with New Jersey, which was the biggest race of the night. Incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine was attached to the hip with President Obama throughout the campaign, and Obama's people were thoroughly involved in his campaign efforts. To argue that the loss in New Jersey doesn't inure to Obama's detriment stands in the face of the statements made by President Obama and Gov. Corzine.

Both pledged that a Corzine win would help both men fulfill their common agenda. That clearly takes a hit now that Corzine was sent packing by New Jerseyeans.

The election in New Jersey wasn't as close as Paul Mulshine wishes it to be. He claims that Chris Christie doesn't have a mandate.

Corzine capitulated very early in the evening and while most experts were expecting the New Jersey results to go down into the wee hours of the morning, the results showed Corzine losing early and often throughout the state. Corzine conceded at about 10:20 pm (according to Christie's speech announcing his win at 11pm, when he said that Corzine called 40 minutes earlier to concede). The size of the vote showed just how much discontent there was and it also showed that Chris Daggett was not a factor in the race. He garnered just about 5% of the vote.

The state is in a pissed off mood about out of control state spending and taxes and Corzine's answer was to increase sales tax and allowing property taxes to continue creeping skywards because there was no interest in tackling the difficult issue of controlling spending. Christie at least represents something other than the tax and spend nature found in Trenton. Corzine was despised by most New Jerseyeans because he was ineffectual and never lived up to the hype of being a financial wizard. Daggett was a distraction candidate at best, and voters saw through that.

For those who wonder how to get New Jersey out of the fiscal mess, it starts in one place - state spending. If the state spends more than it takes in, it requires tax hikes. If you promise benefits that are indexed annually, the costs for those benefits rise as does the government's commitment to fund them; Corzine was actually arguing during the budget negotiations this year that municipalities could skip payments so as to avoid making tough decisions elsewhere in the state budget.

That's just it; all the tough decisions on how to pay for state programs - and whether a state program's continued existence is justified, gets put off because the answer is invariably to increase taxes and fees. That has to end if the state wants to regain a competitive edge and encourage job growth.

Bill Thompson lost a narrow election to Bloomberg. That wasn't how the New York City mayor's race was supposed to unfold. Most pundits were expecting a landslide victory, and yet Thompson lost narrowly in a low-turnout election. One has to wonder whether an appearance by President Obama on Thompson's behalf could have charged up Democrats to get out and vote for Thompson. Get out the vote efforts by Democrats in New York City could have turned the election on its head, and yet Obama only provided a wave and a weak endorsement of Thompson in comparison to the fawning attention Obama paid to Corzine across the river.

Why did Bloomberg win in such a fashion? Could it have been the fact that people resented the fact that he did an about face on term limits and had them overturned? Did people resent that he spent nearly $100 million to get reelected? Perhaps.

A much more likely explanation is that the turnout was so low, that only the die-hard voters showed up at the polls, and due to the sheer number of registered Democrats who vote party line that it guaranteed a close election.

One final race that deserves a look is NY-23, where Democrat Bill Owens overcame efforts by out-of-district conservative Doug Hoffman to win in a largely Republican district after Republican Dede Scozzafava dropped out. This was a special election, where the party bosses chose the candidates, and the outcome there will have limited impact going forward for the national GOP, although quite a few will argue that the Sarah Palin/Glenn Beck/Rush Limbaugh wing of the party took a hit because they backed the conservative candidate who forced the Republican "moderate" to drop out and therefore lost the district for the GOP altogether.

It does, however, have serious repercussions in New York as the state GOP needs to address how they chose candidates and needs to work on building up candidates who are fiscal conservatives that will present a message of improving the economic situation upstate by reducing the crushing tax burden faced by New Yorkers and that improving the tax climate will result in an improved business climate, encouraging new businesses and job opportunities. Hoffman never got that far; Scozzafava was a pro-union hack insider whose actions should have raised eyebrows given that her and her husband were toying with the idea of jumping ship and changing party affiliations.

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