Incumbent Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine had become deeply unpopular in New Jersey as his state suffered in the economic downturn. Democratic candidate state Sen. Creigh Deeds in Virginia was a less-polished speaker than his GOP opponent, Bob McDonnell.
Plus, one year can be a lifetime in politics. Was it only last November that Obama rolled to his convincing victory? By next November, the US electorate could be in a completely different mood.
But right now that electorate is exhibiting some dangerous tendencies, as far as Democrats are concerned. For one, independents have moved en masse to the Republican tent.
In New Jersey, Republican candidate Chris Christie won 58 percent of self-declared independents, according to exit polls. In Virginia, Bob McDonnell won 63 percent of independents.
Boosted by independents, McDonnell won Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties in northern Virginia. All are suburbs or exurbs of Washington, D.C., that went for Obama in 2008 – seen then as evidence that the Old Dominion was drifting leftward.
The defection of independents was “the big news in the numbers” from Tuesday’s vote, according to former Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer.
Democrats have assumed that independents will back them in supporting larger government programs and more government spending, said Mr. Bauer. “But they are wrong,” said Bauer in a statement on the election’s outcome.