Wednesday, September 23, 2009


From U.S. News:

Some Republicans are working to delay votes on President Obama's healthcare reform until after November's off-year elections in Virginia and New Jersey, but not just because they want time to amend the plan. GOP strategists are hopeful that Republicans will upset Democrats in the gubernatorial races there, scaring moderate Democrats away from the Obama plan as they worry about their own re-election in 2010....

To state the obvious, this is the real reason the Obama White House cares about who's running in the New York governor's race. It's not just because of the possible impact on down-ticket races that could change the head count in Congress. (And it's not because, in Richard Cohen's idiotic formulation, Obama is a Chicago thug and "When you become a problem for Obama, don't get too close to a window.") It's because the conventional-wisdom-molders of the political world will read way too much into any relatively high-profile election result that tips against the Democrats, even if it doesn't directly involve the House or Senate, and even if the loss had nothing to do with Obama. Any Republican victor in any race will be hailed as an Obama-killer.

Corzine is in trouble in New Jersey because of economic woes (which predate Obama) and because of state Democratic Party corruption; New Jersey is also a state with a recent history of electing Republican governors (Tom Kean, Christie Whitman). Virginia, though it elects some Democrats, was right-wing for decades and has begun to inch left only recently. And yet losses for the Democratic candidates in those states (which are likely) are already being spun as "upsets" -- and, will be spun as referenda on the entire Obama agenda (and nothing else).

Obama worries that thestaggeringly unpopular David Paterson will stay in the race for good reasons. Paterson's unwillingness to step aside might persuade the very popular Andrew Cuomo to stay out of the race -- or might lead to a bruising party primary, quite possibly with racial overtones. And either of those outcomes might lead to Rudy Giuliani in the governor's mansion -- and yet such an election result would be deemed a referendum on Obama. At that point, the guardians of conventional wisdom would declare Rudy Giuliani to be Barack Obama's debating partner (a role he'd only too happily accept). That's the risk: not that Giuliani could use a gubernatorial victory as a launching pad for a presidential campaign (sorry, Karl Rove, that ain't gonna happen unless Rudy does a Romneyesque flipflop on abortion and homosexuality), but that he'd become the press's idea of a shadow president. (The New York media, part of which is the national media, still harbors a hell of a lot of goodwill for Rudy, whom it regards as a sort of Sinatra of politics.)

And if we're going to talk about Rove and interventions in elections, we should talk not only about the AG scandal but also about stories like this one, from 2004, which describes the heavy-handed way the Bush/Rove White House intervened -- arm-twisted -- to get Mel Martinez on the ballot as a Senate candidate in Florida and apparently pressured the once-moderate Martinex to run a wingnutty and McCarthyite campaign. Let me know when we see evidence of anything like that on the current White House's part.


ON THE OTHER HAND: aimai's point in comments about the way Paterson was handled is absolutely correct.

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