Democratic candidates Jon Corzine (N.J.) and Tim Kaine (Va.) won their states’ respective governor races yesterday, as we expected. Typically, victorious Democrats are already attempting to spin their double-win as though it were a harbinger for 2006.
1) Democrats already stand to have a good year in 2006, but this election had almost nothing to do with that, and historically off-year elections rarely do. Republican victories in the off-year gubernatorial elections in 1997 predated a disastrous mid-term election for them in 1998. Democrats won both the New Jersey and Virginia races in late 2001 — at the height of President Bush’s popularity — only to be blown away in the 2002 midterms.
2) These were local races about local issues and candidates, and even President Bush’s late visit to Virginia to campaign for Jerry Kilgore (R) does not change that fact. Kilgore lost because he proved to be a bad candidate and his campaign staff had an abysmal grasp on the issues that would motivate Republican voters. As further evidence we note, as we correctly predicted, that Bill Bolling and Bob McDonnell, the Republican candidates for Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General, won their races even as Kilgore went down in flames.
3) Likewise, in New Jersey, what was supposed to be a slam-dunk race for Corzine proved to be a little closer than expected. We do not take this as a sign of good things for Republicans ahead in the Garden State any more than we view Kaine’s victory as a vindication of Democratic ideas in Virginia.