Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

November 5, 2009 11:57 AM

2009 Elections

The 2009 elections can be read as a reflection of the continuing discontent among Americans. 85% or more of the voters in New Jersey and Virginia are "very worried" about the economy for the coming year.

The elections can also be read as a reflection of a Democratic gubernatorial incumbent (New Jersey) who had a very poor job approval rating for his performance in office, and a Democratic candidate for Governor (Virginia) who simply didn't have it.

The elections can also be read as older Americans caring more than younger Americans about making the effort to get out and vote, and as Independents switching course.

Given the surprising closeness of the New York Mayoral election, the most intriguing post-election question is whether City Comptroller Bill Thompson, the Democratic nominee, would have won if any part of the Democratic establishment from the President to the Congressional delegation had actively supported him?

It is hard to believe that there is much to be read in the Democratic victory in the NY-23 Congressional seat. A political fiction writer probably would not have been able to find a publisher for a novel with the plot line that transpired in that race.

It is fair to say that, while voters still like President Obama, his personal status is not transferable to others in the political arena.

It is always the case that the composition of the electorate in a non- Presidential election year is quite different from that in Presidential election years. This was particularly notable in this year's Virginia and New Jersey elections. The following reflects the percentage of the electorate that each of the noted groups constituted in November 2008 and November 2009 in these two States.

Virginia New Jersey
'08 '09 '08 '09
18-29 years of age 21% 10% 17% 9%
45 years of age and older 49% 65% 53% 66%

Conservatives 33% 40% 25% 30%
Independents 27% 30% 28% 28%

While Independents are not a party, they do seem supported Democrats in 2008 and 2006. In 2009 they switched.

Here is how Independents voted in the two Gubernatorial elections last Tuesday, compared to how they voted last November. [WW is conscious that votes for President and votes for Governors are different. Nonetheless WW finds the comparison interesting.]

Virginia 2008 Obama (D) 49% McCain (R) 48%

2009 Deeds (D) 33% McDonnell (R) 66%

New Jersey 2008 Obama (D) 51% McCain (R) 47%

2009 Corzine (D) 30% Christie (R) 60%

Whether these elections are a harbinger of the future in the 2010 and 2012 elections is less clear.

The following chart details, from 1960 - 2008, the results of the Gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey following each Presidential election year.

Following the 7 Presidential elections, 1960-1984, there were 5 Virginia/New Jersey Guberatorial elections in which the person elected in each of the States was from the same Party as the recently elected President. In the other 2 cycles, one State selected a person who was of the same Party as the President.

Beginning in 1988, there has not been a single cycle when both States elected a Governor who was from the same Party as the President.

In 1988, 2000 and 2004, with a Republican President, both States elected Democratic Governors. In 1992, 1996 and 2008, with a Democrat President, both States elected Republican Governors. Go figure.

Virginia & New Jersey Election Results 1960 to Present:

Virginia and New Jersey Election Results 1960 to Present

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