But White House and Democratic Party leaders know that a loss in either state this fall will be interpreted as a setback for Obama. Republican victories in either state will boost a beleaguered party that is searching desperately for signs of renewal.
Virginia and New Jersey will be important for another reason. A lingering question from the 2008 election is whether the enthusiasm surrounding Obama's candidacy was singularly focused or transferable to other Democrats when he is not on the ballot. His candidacy was fueled by the passions he engendered among his followers and by the strongly anti-Bush sentiment in the country. To what extent did the results in 2008 signal affirmative endorsement of the Democratic Party?
But as the Post article opens:
Off-year elections rarely predict the future -- except when they do. That's why Democratic and Republican leaders will be closely watching the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and especially Virginia between now and November.Echoing that voice, Salon's Mike Madden believes that off-year elections provide only little help, if any, to make larger claims for or against the Obama Administration:
Local elections can provide small glimpses of what each party is doing right – or wrong – but looking for a deep national significance in the result is just the latest example of the Washington political establishment's thinking that everything that goes on around the country has to do with something happening inside the Beltway.In a similar manner, NPR admits the political obsession to make transcendent claims from the results of these elections:
But we, the political cognoscenti, have this ingrained and annoying habit of over-interpreting elections. That's especially true of off-year elections, like this year's gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, or special elections ...Sometimes, off-year elections or special elections do signal larger trends, but generally we should not over-analyze the results:
So sometimes we do learn something in these isolated elections. But for the most part, attempts at reading tea leaves and extrapolating results into a BIG MESSAGE are often just silly.Mental note.