One 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.