Election results are in for many states and incumbents largely prevailed. Is it a sign that voters may keep incumbents in office in 2012?
Kentucky's Democratic governor won another term Tuesday, and Mississippi voters kept their governor's office in GOP hands — decisions that suggested many Americans were not ready to abandon incumbent parties, despite the nation's economic woes.
In Ohio, voters restored the bargaining rights of public employees, and in Mississippi they rejected an initiative that would have defined life as beginning at conception. Supporters of the Mississippi measure had hoped to use it to mount a legal attack on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that established the right to abortion.
Across the nation, voters' last major judgments of 2011 were closely watched for any hints about the public's political mood just two months ahead of the first presidential primary and nearly four years into the worst economic slowdown since the Depression.
In Ohio, a new law that severely limited the bargaining rights of more than 350,000 teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees was repealed. The defeat was a stiff blow to Gov. John Kasich and cast doubt on other Republican governors who have sought union-limiting measures as a way to curb spending.
The disputed law permitted workers to negotiate wages but not pensions or health care benefits, and it banned public-worker strikes, scrapped binding arbitration and eliminated annual raises for teachers.
The outcome will no doubt be studied by presidential candidates as a gauge of the Ohio electorate, which is seen as a bellwether. No Republican has won the White House without Ohio, and only two Democrats have done so in more than a century.
Elsewhere on the ballot, Ohio voters approved a proposal to prohibit people from being required to buy health insurance as part of the national health care overhaul. The vote was mostly symbolic, but Republicans planned to use it in a legal challenge.
The governors' races were of keen interest to both parties. Ten states will elect governors next year, and governors can marshal get-out-the-vote efforts crucial to any White House candidate. The first presidential primary is Jan. 10 in New Hampshire.
In Kentucky, Gov. Steve Beshear was easily re-elected despite high unemployment, budget shortfalls and an onslaught of third-party attack ads. He became the second Democrat to win a governor's race this year, after West Virginia's Earl Ray Tomblin.