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Governance matters more than elections

Mark Schmitt looks forward:

It's governance, not elections, that will matter. If Republican governors like Chris Christie in New Jersey, Robert McDonnell in Virginia, or others elected in 2008 or earlier are seen as successful governors, that's the path back to power for Republicans. The Republican surge in the 1990s owed far more to big-state Republican governors who were perceived as successful than to the congressional majority. Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin, John Engler in Michigan, George Voinovich in Ohio, Christine Todd Whitman in New Jersey, Tom Ridge in Pennsylvania and others implanted in those swing-state voters a sense that Republicans could be responsible stewards of government, cutting taxes without cutting services. ("Perceived" is the key word; there were often colossal gimmicks involved.) When voters looked at Bush in 2000, they quite reasonably saw him as cut from the same cloth, and very different from the deeply unpopular Republicans of Congress. Governors present a face of the party as solving problems, not stirring conflict around social issues or obstructing progress on health care.

I'm not too worried about Christie being perceived as a big success. New Jersey ran out of gimmicks a long time ago, and I think the Christie administration will dissolve quickly in scandal. (The "deferred prosecution" racket he created as a U.S. attorney should have been a major issue in the campaign: He gave a company a deal under which they wouldn't be prosecuted if they endowed a chair at his alma mater, Seton Hall! Is that so hard to explain?) But McDonnell takes office on a foundation of eight years of responsible government by Warner and Tim Kaine. The state has one of the most resilient economies in the country (thanks, big government!), and it won't take much for him to be seen as a good governor who can also cut some taxes. Such success could make McDonnell a presidential candidate someday, or more likely a challenger for one of the two Senate seats, and it will potentially restore Virginians' comfort with the Republican Party. Those are the only national consequences of yesterday's gubernatorial elections.

By Ezra Klein  |  November 4, 2009; 1:26 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Midterms  
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Next: Climate change vs. American politics


Man, things are so fleeting.

All of these govs were apparently so helpful to the Republicans only two terms ago, but now they've all been run out of the party or politics altogether- usually by the party's conservative wing. And their closest descendant, Charlie Crist, could end up the same way within a year.

So very odd, how we eat our own.

Posted by: colby1983 | November 4, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I disagree, elections matter more than governance. Dude! Instead of posting this nonsense, let us see what you're texting to your girlfriend.

Posted by: bmull | November 4, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Re Virginia Gov's race: all McDonnell's election proved is that his slick PR campaign that had him "born again" as a moderate who would solve all the people's problems. Of course his entire career here was as a right wing extremist who consistently was anti-govmt and always went for the conservative extremist social agenda. Now that he's snookered enough voters to be governor, we'll see whether he lives up to his moderate campaign image or is born again as the life-long extremist he is. The lesson right wing Repubs learn from this election: hide your true colors; pretend you're a moderate; get elected, and then slash and burn to gut govmt regulation of the private sector while imposing laws and regs cramming their social agenda down the throats of the citizens.

Posted by: zippyzeph | November 4, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

I think the fact that health care reform might not pass now - is a major national consequence. Perhaps you think that's not true. But some Blue Dog Democrats may be taking this a lot more seriously than you want them to.

Posted by: MikeR4 | November 5, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

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