WASHINGTON -- Republicans won the governorships of New Jersey and Virginia Nov. 3, only a year after then-Sen. Barack Obama swept both states on his way to the White House.
The GOP's Chris Christie and Robert McDonnell won New Jersey and Virginia, respectively, over more liberal candidates for the Democrats. The victories came in a state, New Jersey, that has been solidly Democratic and in another, Virginia, that has been trending Democratic for several years.
Christie, a former U.S. attorney, deposed incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine by 49 to 45 percent, with 99 percent of the precincts reporting, according to Fox News. McDonnell, Virginia's attorney general, defeated state Sen. Creigh Deeds by a 59-to-41 percent margin, with all precincts in.
The twin losses for Democrats came one year after their nominee, Obama, took New Jersey with 57 percent of the vote and Virginia with 53 percent. The losses also came despite campaign visits by the president to both states.
Independent voters went heavily for Obama in 2008, but this year exit polls in both states indicated they favored the Republican candidates for governor by about a 2-to-1 margin, according to Fox.
In Virginia, Deeds attacked McDonnell's pro-life position and record without success. The GOP nominee, a pro-life advocate during his 14 years in the state legislature, focused on the economy during the campaign. Republicans not only won the governorship of Virginia by a wide margin but took the lieutenant governor and attorney general races easily.
There was some evidence Corzine's endorsement of "gay marriage" hurt his chances with New Jersey voters. "Our friends at the New Jersey Family Policy Council pointed to several recent polls that link the governor's support for same-sex 'marriage' to his underperformance among minority voters," Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in a written release.
Some observers saw the results as a reaction to policies promoted in the last year by the Democratic-controlled White House and Congress.
"I've been saying ever since President Obama took office and began to implement his extreme economic and social agenda that he and his advisers, along with Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and Majority Leader [Harry] Reid, had fundamentally misread the 2008 election results," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "The Democrats won because the economy was in the tank, and when the economy is in the tank the party in power [in the White House] loses. It's one of the oldest truisms of American politics."
Land cited exit polling in 2008 that showed 63 percent of voters said the economy determined how they voted.
"Unfortunately, President Obama and the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate took the election results as a mandate to take the country on a hard left turn in terms of massive growth of government and redistributionist tax policies," he told Baptist Press. "The massive government spending has not fixed the economy, which isn't surprising, because massive government spending couldn't fix the economies in Japan and Europe either."
"Last night the people of Virginia and New Jersey sent a vivid reminder to politicians in Washington that this is still a center-right country that wants the economy fixed as its No. 1 priority," Land said.
Gary Bauer, president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families, said in a written statement, "It's clear that voters, especially independent voters, do not like the change they have experienced" since the 2008 election.
"These results show that the voters are rejecting runaway deficit spending, higher taxes and bigger government," Bauer said. "If the White House and Congressional liberals are listening, they will pull Obamacare off the agenda and stop the march to socialized medicine."
Pro-life leader Marjorie Dannenfelser said the results in New Jersey and Virginia "should serve as a cautionary tale to Congress and the White House, whose overreach on health care could experience a similar demise."
Dannenfelser is president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which supports pro-life women in political races.
The Republican wins in New Jersey and Virginia came the same week House Democrats are seeking to gain approval for health care legislation that will provide federal funds for abortion and cost an estimated $1.2 trillion or more over 10 years.
The White House said Nov. 4 the results in the two states would not scare off moderate Democrats who are needed to pass health care reform.
"I don't think they will [bolt] and I'm not concerned," Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters, according to Politico.com.
Gibss said the only Nov. 3 races with national significance were House elections in New York and California, where Democrats prevailed. "Those are people that'll take part in participating in the president's agenda," he said, Politico reported.
Democrat Bill Owens defeated Doug Hoffman, running as an independent, in a right-leaning congressional district in upstate New York after liberal Republican Dede Scozzafava dropped out of the race and endorsed Owens only days before the vote. In a liberal northern California district, state Lt. Gov. John Garamendi won over Republican Doug Harmer.
The election results, Land said, may signal problems next November for one group -- incumbents.
He cited the five-point win by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a race some predicted he would win by at least 10 points. Bloomberg "barely won re-election, although he outspent his opponent by more than 20 to 1," Land said. "This should serve as a warning that 2010 will be a tough year for incumbents of any party."