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Corzine's middle-voter problem

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- Gov. Jon Corzine tried as hard as he could to make the New Jersey election about Barack Obama. It was a good idea -- Obama’s approval rating among those who voted in New Jersey today was in the high 50s, according to the exit poll. Except that many of those Obama fans defected to Republican Chris Christie.

The exit poll suggests that Democrat Corzine held on to only about three-quarters of the voters who approved of Obama. Those Obama defectors were key to Corzine’s loss to Christie.

Also troubling for Democrats was a drift to Republicans among voters in the middle -- independents, moderates and suburbanites.

Independents split narrowly for Obama in 2008. This time, they went by margins approaching 2-to-1 for Republican Christie. Moderates, who went 3-to-2 for Obama, split closely in the governor’s race. And suburban voters who also backed Obama by 3-to-2 went for Christie by a slight margin this time.

It would obviously be a mistake to see New Jersey as a referendum on Obama, whose approval numbers now are close to his victory numbers last election. But Democrats will have to look closely at those middle voters. Democrats win (as in the 2006 midterms and the 2008 presidential election) when they mobilize their base and win over those moderate, independent suburbanites. They have to do both at the same time. Corzine had difficulty repeating that feat.

By E.J. Dionne  | November 3, 2009; 10:38 PM ET
Categories:  Dionne  | Tags:  E.J. Dionne  
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Obama’s approval rating among those who voted in New Jersey today was in the high 50s,
Oh Really, voters surly didn't approve of Obama's choice of Corzine, he campaigned heavily for him...hmmmmmm....

Posted by: ekim53 | November 3, 2009 11:05 PM | Report abuse

Again we ,African Americans and the youth DO NOT SHOW UP and the same old bloated Red Faced tired A*** Crakah MF return the very people who got us in to this mess back to power. F*** this Electorate and F*** this Country. GO FOR SELF!!!

Posted by: aunkmaa1 | November 3, 2009 11:05 PM | Report abuse

Christie looks eerily like a Republican Gov. Blago (late of Illinois shame)---a walking-talking scandal-ready-to-break. Sorry, Jersey friends. Can't say you didn't see the train wreck coming. You guys are way too much like us in Chicago.

Posted by: Eugene6 | November 3, 2009 11:48 PM | Report abuse

well, aunkmaa1, thank you for your astute and erudite commentary. F*** you too.

Posted by: spotlessmind | November 3, 2009 11:54 PM | Report abuse

I agree, yes we shouldn't read too much into the elections in NJ and VA. But it would also be a mistake to ignore the results completely. I hope the Democrats and the White House take this as a wake-up call and start working their behinds off to show voters that they really care and are seriously tackling the problems that face this country. So far, their antics in Washington leaves much to be desired.

It is also a bummer that the same old voters, who until the last election were mainly responsible for who got elected to office, are back at it for the same types that go us into the debacle we're in. It is essential that the young and new voters that voted for Obama take their responsibilities seriously and stay engaged. Their one-off vote for Obama is not enough to bring "Change We Can Believe In." They have to keep showing up, and up, and up, and up.

Posted by: ZnanaB | November 3, 2009 11:55 PM | Report abuse

"It would obviously be a mistake to see New Jersey as a referendum on Obama,"

Oh really? That's like saying Obama's victory was not a referendum on Bush.

People are not happy with the Democrats right now in the same way they were not happy with Republicans last year.

Lots or promise on governing from the middle from Obama, lots of hard-core Democratic tax-and-spend plans.

Obama creeps further towards one-term.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | November 4, 2009 5:40 AM | Report abuse

if obama had been on the ballot...
he would have lost last night...
he has not kept his promises and people are out of work...
no work...
no vote...

Posted by: DwightCollins | November 4, 2009 7:05 AM | Report abuse

if obama had been on the ballot...
he would have lost last night...
he has not kept his promises and people are out of work...
no work...
no vote...

Posted by: DwightCollins | November 4, 2009 7:06 AM | Report abuse

While not all politics is local, they are when it comes to off year elections.

Thank you E.J. for pointing out the fact that most elections are won or lost in the center; the moderate independent voter who is not mindlessly locked into straight party line or single issue voting.

I suspect that many of these voters were registering concern about the impact of a slowed economy in their states and on state government's growing tendency to outspend its income and resources. In both instances, the Democrats had the bad fortune to be on duty when these occurred so independents who believe government should be resonsive to the needs of the people voted for a change in management.

Isn't that the way represenative elections are supposed to work?

Posted by: bobfbell | November 4, 2009 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Will the MSM drop this idio_tic meme? Local elections are about local issues. Corzine was already unpopular before Obama's election to the presidency.

The real story about this past election is that NY-23 is sending a Democrat to Congress for the first time in 71 years of solid Republican voting. Guess why? Because the guy lives in district 23 and is fluent in its local issues, particularly its local economy that depends heavily on Fort Drum. People in NY-23 are first and foremost concerned about putting food on the family table, the MSM's idiocy and the teabaggers' insanity notwithstanding.

Posted by: Gatsby10 | November 4, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Corzine's problem is that he is just another sleazy politician, originally from Illinois, like Barry Soetoro, AKA Barack Obama.

Posted by: Jerzy | November 4, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Corzine's Problem: Taxes are way out of control in New Jersey. Also, everyone wants huge social programs. The people who make the money and live in houses that they own are crushed by property taxes. The whole state needs to balance how much they are willing to pay, and what they get for it. They also have the county, township, and borough system which creates duplicative layers of bureaucracy. A referendum on Obama - most likely not. More likely a referendum on what am I getting for my money.

Posted by: Moderation | November 4, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

What if U. S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald actually indicts Obama, Emanuel, Jarret, Axelrod, et al while he is still in office?

Scores of corrupt Illinois Democrats have been indicted and prosecuted so far, including many of Obama's old pals, such as Tony Rezko and impeached former governor Rod Blagojevich.

Will Obama create a constitutional crisis or will he, like Nixon, have the decency to resign from the Presidency before putting us through another long "national nightmare?"

Posted by: Jerzy | November 4, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

People need to realize that there is a disconnect in the polls. I say this because people seem to disassociate the man (Obama) from his policies. I think his favorability ratings are based on what I would call a popularity contest. They like him because he has charisma and is made up to be a god, a rock star; however, when you ask about his policies without mention of his name, they don't approve of those. I don't think they realize the incongruity in this. The man and the policies are one and the same, so it amazes me that people don't really make that connection when responding to these polls.

Posted by: rld2 | November 4, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

This time Dionne is short and sweet and puts the whole blame on Corzine. Obama, and his several personal appeals to the NJ electorate had no impact. A very popular president, in a heavily Democratic state, that has been able to "buy" elections in the past, and still they can't get the dead dog over the finish line? And of course Dionne and Axelrod say there is nothing here to learn from. Although I expect nothing less, I still enjoy watching Dionne dance. Obama should be very wary of these results. Yes, it is a long time before the next election and these elections do not signify exactly on point the nation's sentiment regarding Obama and his lurch left but they are clear warnings to him and his socialist buddies that the majority of Americans don't want to become Venezualans

Posted by: tomb5 | November 4, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Obama was not an issue. Even A LOT of Democrats can't stand Corzine and didn't vote for him. NJ is a reliably liberal state and yet regularly elects GOP governors. This was completely local. The upstate NY special election was a reflection on Obama as any off-year congressional election would be and the GOP couldn't hold on to their safest seat in the state.

Posted by: Lugg | November 4, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Since Republicans basically caused the economic problems we're in, maybe they know better how to fix them. But I doubt it. I think Obama warned about a quick fix way before he got elected. I voted for him. But I'm disappointed. Since serving in office, he's surrounded himself with Wall Street lackeys, while it appears that corporations and lobbyists already have him in their pockets. It's too early to say, but the change that Obama promised might never materialize. Republicans might bring us back to where we were.

Posted by: muslit | November 4, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

The election results of this off off year election were not a referendum on the president except for those who want to see it that way.

They lost in upstate New York, the only Federal office up for grabs except for a safe democratic seat in California. I see that as +1 for democrats and -1 for national republicans and their mouth pieces at the federal level

In Virginia a true right wing candidate ran in the sheep's clothing of a moderate, talking about cutting taxes and yet improving the transportation system. With what money? Lets wait and see how he governs, t could be the final blow to republicanism in the old Dominion if he decides that it is better politics to go back to his Pat Robertson roots when he discovers he can't keep his promises. Fianlly the democrat in the race was weak and kept Obama at arms length until the very end.

In New Jersey Christie's first actions as governor, so he says, is property tax abatement or relief. Unfortunately, property taxes are assessed locally, not at the State level, so in order for the State to provide relief it must provide MONEY, which it does not have and which is against republican ideology, so don't expect a rise in State taxes to provide that relief. He cannot possibly keep that promise. I see one term coming for Mr. Christie. I will bet that citizens in New Jersey do not want services to decline or schools to have less money, which is what property taxes fund. I agree its a lousy system but it is the system for a reason. Paying for education is left to the localities by the State and local governments because they want parents to make the decision to fund. States can contribute but not control. States can contribute if they have the money but in hard times when they are cutting jobs and everything else in sight to meet their legally mandated responsibility to balance their budgets, they cut local aid to schools as well. Lies from Mr. Christie fooled the voters. They will realize this in short order.

In both Virginia and New Jersey exit polls indicated high support numbers for the president, well over 50% in each state. Those kind of numbers win elections, not lose them.

Finally in off off year elections, the voters who turn out for local issues are older and more conservative. So go ahead and dance repubs and conservos and we'll see ya in 2010. looking forward to it myself.

Posted by: robertmerry | November 5, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Only democrats can call a defeat 'Victory'! That's probably how Nike got her head knocked off.

Posted by: Dougway | November 5, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

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