Winning in November

Deeds, McAuliffe, MoranOne of the things that I have mentioned repeatedly on this blog is the history of Virginia electing a governor from the party opposite that of the president. No one really knows the exact reason for this, but many suspect that it has something to do with how tough the first year of a new presidency can be.

Democrats are, no doubt, feeling pretty good about our chances right now with President Obama’s approval ratings after 100+ days being pretty high. But November is a long way off, and a lot can happen between now and then. John Judis of The New Republic opines in this article that the picture may soon not be so rosy.

According to Gallup, 66 percent of Americans approve of the job he is doing. But I expect that Obama’s popularity will begin to fall, even plummet, as the leaves turn brown. That’s not to say he is doing a bad job, but that the tasks he faces in fixing the economy remain daunting, and beyond resolution in his first year or, perhaps, even first term.


There is reason to be worried that we’re still a long way from seeing growth rather than slower decline. Much of a recovery will rest on a growth in consumer demand, but the most recent figures show a 0.4 percent decline in retail spending from March to April–and an 11.4 percent decline from the previous April. That’s not the stuff of growth.


As consumer demand continues to plummet and actual joblessness continues to soar, I expect Obama’s popularity to suffer.

This has been my fear all along. A dip in the popularity of the president (combined with dismal approval ratings of Congress) could very well tank the chances for Democrats – not only to win the governor’s mansion but also actually lose some seats in the House of Delegates. With that goes any chance for reasonable redistricting reform and Republican-drawn districts for the next ten years. Kiss goodbye Congressman Perriello and Congressman Nye, as those districts will be likely redrawn to more favor Republican candidates.

My eye has long been on the prize of redistricting reform. I thought we had a chance in 2008, with the General Assembly being under split control. But it didn’t happen, despite passage of legislation by the Democratically-controlled Senate. There simply are not enough constituent-minded Republicans in the House of Delegates to get bipartisan – forget non-partisan – legislation through.

Even under perfect conditions, I am not convinced that Democrats have the ability to pick up six seats in a single election cycle. I understand that the most seats that have ever changed hands is four. These are not perfect conditions. (Heck, I’m not sure that we could have picked up six seats had the House elections been held last year, when the blue wave washed over Virginia for the first time since 1964. )

The Democratic candidate for governor may very well, by fall, find himself needing to distance himself from the national party, to be what someone called the other day a “Virginia Democrat.” As Democrats look at the trio of candidates who would carry the party’s banner,  it would be wise not to look at where we are on June 9, but where we very well could be on November 3.


27 thoughts on “Winning in November

  1. That’s a sobering analysis. I can’t say that I like it, but I think you are right.

    I will admit that I always discounted the tradition that the party of the sitting President loses the Virginia Governor’s Mansion. I thought it was one of those odd coincidences that just pop up in history. But the argument that it’s because the first year of a new president is often so bumphy rings true. It’s also why, historically, the president’s party loses congressional seats in the midterm elections.

    Thank you for pointing out all that is at stake in this year’s elections. It should serve as a wake up call to Democrats to choose wisely in our Primary. I also believe you are right on target that the candidate may find that by November he has to run away from the national party and his strength will have to be that he is a Virginia Democrat

    Thanks again for a good analysis.

  2. I looked at some numbers last night on midterm losses. They are quite sobering. (The latest Sabato’s Crystal Ball email has them. Haven’t been able to locate it online yet.)

    The trickle-down effect of this could be nasty. For example, a friend of mine is having his judicial investiture this afternoon. He was appointed to the court and will have to have his appointment approved by the GA. If Ds lose seats, his appointment is definitely in jeopardy.

  3. There simply are not enough constituent-minded Republicans in the House of Delegates to get bipartisan – forget non-partisan – legislation through.

    This strikes me as a rather ham-fisted complaint, Vivian. Might “constituent-minded Republicans” actually be serving their constituents best by attempting to maximize their presence in the HoD? And why didn’t Democrats insist on the fairness of bipartisan redistricting during their 100+ years of ruling the GA?

    1. Ham-fisted? Hardly. I’ve been calling for redistricting reform for some time now. And I’ve been as hard on the Ds for not having voted for it in the past as I’m being on the Rs. The truth is that the Ds passed the legislation (watered down as it was) while the Rs didn’t.

      Partisan redistricting is about the electeds choosing their constituents rather than the constituents choosing the electeds. It’s just wrong – regardless of who does it.

        1. At the time, I was unaware of the issue. However, when the Dems took control of the Senate in 2007 and majority leader Saslaw said it was no longer a priority (or something to that effect), I believe I was the first Dem to call him out on it.

  4. Anyone who knows Vivian knows she hits her own party pretty hard sometimes, but the fact remains that when Democrats controlled both sides of the General Assembly, they never even thought of non-partisan or bipartisan redistricting.

    But the overall point is correct. To paraphrase Kipling, both triumph and disaster are impostors. These things are cyclical (I favor a 16-year cycle theory) and both sides assume their surges are trends rather than peaks of the pendulum.

  5. “With that goes any chance for reasonable redistricting reform….”

    Yeah, right. The democrats campaigned on that issue, won, and then promptly forgot all about it.

    The party in power never has any interest in reforming the redistricting process.

      1. A bill that did nothing but create a new, powerless commission:

        The commission will prepare plans and submit them as bills to the General Assembly. The General Assembly shall then proceed to act on the bills in the usual manner.

        In died in the in House Sub-Committee on Elections because it was not even worth voting on.

        1. If you go back through the history, Mouse, that bill started out much stronger. The concessions made were an attempt to get SOMETHING on the table.

          If the bill did nothing, why did the House sub-committee kill it in an earlier am session?

          It is also worth noting that a stronger version of redistricting reform passed the Senate the year before – and was also killed in the House.

          1. Please enlighten me — I can only find SJ352 from 2007, which passed the Senate subcommittee, but I cannot even see that it went to the full Senate. It certainly never left the Senate.

            To which bill are you referring?

  6. @Brian – I am a firm believer that the power should belong with the people. Any effort that stymies that is going to be met with opposition from me.

    1. I expect that you’ll plenty of opposing to do. I’m not sure that I’m ready to support the current reform effort, but compact contiguous (and competitive) districts would make elections much more interesting.

    1. Thanks — I followed the link in your post. I had been there before and only I saw that the box for “Passed Senate” was not checked. Hence my error. Only by expanding the View Bill’s History section could one see that it did in fact pass the Senate.

      Digging further, I see also that Moran was a Patron of the same redistricting bills as Deeds (just in the House, not the Senate).

      I suspect one reason you favor Moran appears in today’s Washington Post:

      [Deeds] voted to void contracts between members of the same sex that would have provided rights associated with marriage, such as hospital visits….

      While I also oppose same-sex marriage, I am far, far more opposed to the government voiding contracts, no matter who makes them. (Upon that principle also rests my opposition to minimum-wage laws.)

  7. I was wondering how far down that Reply thing would go. Now we know.

    Anyway, let us be more specific. Do you oppose:

    (1) Creating a board to promote the state’s sheep industry?

    (2) Classifying pot-bellied pigs as “companion animals”?

    (3) Making it a crime to interfere with a person who is lawfully fishing?

    (4) Increasing the penalty for killing a fetus?

    (5) Designating English as the official language of Virginia?

    (6) Making illegal immigrants ineligible for state or local benefits?

    (7) Making illegal immigrants ineligible for in-state college tuition rates?

    (8) Allowing Virginians to carry concealed weapons into bars and restaurants?

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