Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Democrats Retain NJ, Virginia Governorships, As Voters Reject Rove-Inspired Republican Spin

It was a good night for Democrats, and a bad night for Karl Rove-inspired Republican spin.

In New Jersey, a blue state in recent years, Democrat Jon Corzine defeated Republican Doug Forrester.

While that victory was expected, the same could not be said for Virginia, where Democrat Tim Kaine defeated Republican Jerry Kilgore. Kaine, the Lieutenant Governor, replaces Democrat Mark Warner, who some see as a viable presidential candidate in 2008. (State rules prevented Warner, who had 70% approval ratings, from seeking another term.)

It's too soon to tell whether the results of the two races are a precursor for next year's mid-term elections, when Democrats face an uphill climb to regain control of either the House or Senate. But the results do hint that voters may be growing tired of the empty Karl Rove-style spin that helped George Bush defeat John Kerry last November.

***

In New Jersey, Forrester ran television advertisements saying that Corzine, currently a U.S. Senator, had "voted to raise taxes 133 times." Factcheck.org called the advertisement "misleading."

But unlike last fall, when President Bush ran advertisements accusing John Kerry of casting 350 votes for "higher taxes," Corzine did something that Kerry did not: He fought back.

Rather than allow himself to be couched by the empty conservative talking point that he was a "tax and spend liberal," Corzine told voters that Forrester raised property taxes while serving as a mayor and councilman in West Windsor, N.J. A separate advertisement clarified that Forrester's so-called "independent" sources of information for his 133 votes for higher taxes claim -- the Weekly Standard magazine and the National Taxpayers Union -- were clearly conservative entities. He ran another advertisement, just days before the election, saying Forrester was using the "smear tactics" of President Bush and senior White House advisor Karl Rove, because he didn't have a positive record to run on.

Now that's fighting back.

Forrester's negative and misleading advertisements initially closed the gap between himself and the better-known Corzine. Forrester was also helped by a couple of gaffes by Corzine in a debate last weekend. But when the final votes are tallied, Corzine should win by a comfortable margin.

***

In Virginia, the race between Kaine and Kilgore, the former state attorney general, was seen as neck-and-neck heading into the final days.

As President Bush's popularity ratings sunk to new lows , Kilgore knew enough to run on his own merit -- that is to run away from the Bush administration.

As the New York Times wrote today: "Mr. Kilgore has not identified himself closely with Mr. Bush, even skipping the president's recent speech in Norfolk on terrorism."

Bush did make an appearance with Kilgore yesterday, in the heavily Republican Richmond area.

"If you want to keep your taxes low and your economy growing, there's only one person in the race that will do that and that's Jerry Kilgore," Bush spun in a rare joint appearance with Kilgore.

Kaine's advisers told the Times that they were encouraged by Bush's 11th-hour appearance with Kilgore, saying they thought it "could energize as many core Democrats as loyal Republicans."

Still, Kilgore wasn't completely immune from over-the-top negative advertising. In one ad, a grieving father criticized Kaine for voluntarily representing death row inmates in their appeals and said Kaine believed even Adolf Hitler was not a candidate for execution.

A Washington Post poll conducted last week found that two of three Virginia voters said the ads were "unfair," including nearly 75 percent of the self-described independents that both campaigns covet. Even 60 percent of those who favor the death penalty said the ads crossed the line.

Who created such an ad? Republican media consultant Scott Howell, a Rove protege who has worked for President Bush.

Kaine, like Corzine, fought back with facts.

"My faith teaches life is sacred," Kaine, a Catholic, said in a response advertisement. "That's why I personally oppose the death penalty. But I take my oath of office seriously. And I'll enforce the death penalty. As governor, I'll carry out death sentences handed down by Virginia juries, because that's the law."

And as in New Jersey, Virginia voters apparently sided with facts, and rejected Republican spin.

***

Again, it's too soon to tell whether these two races -- in which Democrats held on to hotly contested governorships -- is any indicator for next November.

But in both cases, the empty conservative spin that worked for Bush in 2004 failed for Republican candidates in 2005. Why? Because voters heard a Democrat who quickly fought back with facts. That should be the lesson for 2006.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Olney Blue said...

Great post!

10:30 PM  
Anonymous calimary said...

It's gonna be a BETTER night, and morning after, as far as the
political chat show spin.

You KNOW what it's gonna be, don't you? Some of 'em were warming up for it in the bullpen earlier today, wondering if the last minute bush appearance in Virginia was gonna help Kilgore, and what it would mean for bush himself, can he get back on top of things again - can he turn it around - you know the breathless bullshit.

Well, they're gonna be breathless, alright.

You may well hear some pundits pronounce this the beginning of the end of bush, as though perhaps today's elections were also a referendum on HIM. Chris Matthews made a big deal about that and what the Virginia vote was gonna mean, and how Kilgore was hesitant about inviting bush to come and campaign and how it'll be viewed as a loss for bush if Kilgore doesn't win, and what signal it'll send to OTHER republi-CONS whose necks are on the block next year. Watch how little he'll have to do next fall, when full-court-press campaign time comes around. Watch how few invitations he'll get. Watch the distancing maneuvers begin - AS OF TONIGHT.

10:59 PM  
Anonymous tigereye said...

it still pisses me off that Kerry didn't punch back harder

why listen to the lessons of Clinton, who won twice.

I like to see us punching back!

11:31 PM  
Anonymous emulatorloo said...

it pisses me off that major dems didnt punch back harder when Rove
went for Kerry -- Kerry did push back, as did Max Cleland, as did Kerry's band of brothers, and a few others like Tom Harkin. But all the other major dems (as far as I remember) sat on thier hands and did not come out blasting in support like they should have.

Oh well, 2004 is gone -- looks like the Dems have learned thier lesson.

11:32 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

The stink of failure has reached overwhelming levels amongst the GOP--watch to see how quickly 2006 candidates turn on Bush and his gang of incompetents, when they realize he's not just hurting everyday Americans, he's now sinking the entire Republican party.

We've got another year of Harry Reid givin' 'em hell, while the radicals on the right tear Bush apart before the whole GOP collapses in on itself. God, I love the smell of panic in the morning.

6:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It has seemed to me that if Kerry did not fight back, his supporters certainly attempted to do so.
But the MSM wanted little to do with fact-based rebuttals.
This is how it went.
The oversimplified Bush spin could be broken down to a few convenient soundbites.
Kerry's rebuttal required a more complex discussion, essentially because his arguments, unlike those of Bush, actually contained substance, thought and context.
Bush spin got full coverage, Kerry truths got half-coverage. So the unstudied masses confused and shaken by 9-11 were left with the completely false Rovian impression that Bush was more clear and decisive.
Fast forward a year later, the Bush Administration has already crashed and burned. Most of the campaign representations about ethics, protecting America, compassionate conservatism, helping education, etc. have all been exposed as utter empty spinpoints and lies fabricated for no other reason than to get Bush elected.
The multitudes will never again trust campaign ads, especially from Republicans. Americans have adapted the attitude: We Wuz Robbed!
As JABBS pointed out, we're seeing the reaction of the enlightened new Americans in Virginia and New Jersey.

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Kahuna said...

Corzine's ads were top notch. The dems should take a lesson from Corzine's rapid response team.

10:44 AM  
Anonymous ash said...

I echo the first comment. Excellent synopsis, David. Exhibit A of why this is one of my favorite websites.

5:40 PM  
Blogger WB42 said...

Nice work! Hope you don't mind if I link back to the post.

6:02 PM  

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