US elections ’09 – a preview

In electoral terms, 2009 is supposed to be an off year in American politics, but there are still a number of intriguing races worth taking a look at ahead of the Nov 3rd elections.

Top of the list is the Governor’s race in Virginia. State Democrat Creigh Deeds faces Republican Bob McDonnell, in an increasingly heated, if not plain nasty race. McDonnell is ahead in a state Obama picked up last year. Interestingly, Deeds beat Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe in the primary, but his campaign is yet to shine in the run-up to election day. As they head into the final weeks, the GOP looking increasingly likely to win.

The New Jersey Governor’s race sees a similar pattern, except the Democrats might have hoped to fair better in the state as Democratic incumbent Jim Corzine is running for a second term. Corzine is trying to fight off a stiff challenge from Republican Chris Christie. Christie has been consistently ahead in every poll since January and is growing in confidence, but polls in the last few days do show Corzine mounting a comeback after a negative ads blitz.

The economy and healthcare are clearly key issues in the elections – issues which take Obama’s shine off and act as a rallying point for the Republicans, reviving their electoral prospects this year and next. Polls show about 60% oppose a government requirement for an approved healthcare plan and the anger in the debate easily outstrips the heated MP expenses saga in the UK earlier in the year. Republicans are also talking up taxation issues in a direct appeal to their supporters and to win over hard pressed Democrats.

Publicly, Obama isn’t taking much interest in these races, but VP Joe Biden is. A natural campaigner, Biden brings a human touch to the campaign trail. He has also been helping loyal House Democrats repaying support on healthcare and the economy. The House of Representatives is up next year, with incumbents in tight races fighting their re-election campaigns from the day after the last election.

There is much fun to be had with city politics. Plenty of Mayors are up this year – including New York’s newly Independent Michael Bloomberg, who is currently polling well. He doesn’t seem to be facing too much of a challenge, however others are. Boston’s incumbent Mayor Thomas Menino, is taking no chances, running a ferocious re-election campaign for a historic fifth term running Boston, and he might well do it. Miami, Minneapolis, San Diego and Seattle are all seeing city elections.

Attention is already turning to next year’s elections – including the California gubernatorial election when Arnie steps down due to term limits. Lifelong campaigner, Jerry Brown and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome are fighting it out for the Democratic nomination. 2010 will be Obama’s big test, and one which might decide his fate as a one or two term President.

* Paul Elgood is a Lib Dem councillor in Brighton & Hove, and blogs at The Brunswick Blog. He has recently returned from a trip to Washington.

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This entry was posted in LDVUSA and Op-eds.


  • “As they head into the final weeks, the GOP looking increasingly likely to win.”

    That is true, though the Washington Post (which covers Northern Virginia, too) today endorsed Deeds strongly, and Obama is due to start campaigning in Virginia to drive up the turnout of 2008 Obama voters, which currently sits at about 50%, compared to McCain 2008 voters, which sits at around 66%.

  • There’s no way the Post would have endorsed the republican and deeds would have expected this. Deeds’ performance has been poor throughout -and dire in the debates. Obama is entering this very late and then only after all thequestions as to where he’s been. It’ll just be a stop off on the way back to the WH. It is a mistake as we need to see Obama out campaigning again, it is where he is best.

    my bet Virgina goes red and NJ stays blue.

  • Cllr Patrick Smith 18th Oct '09 - 5:18pm

    President Barack Obama requires widespread support across the US in the Gubernatorial Elections, so to bring into play, the new Health Care package, that to date, rests at the cornerstone of domestic reform,in my view, as this policy goodwill defines American humanity and civilisation, in the 21st C.

    It remains totally beyond belief to most British users of the NHS every day, that there can be any argument to oppose a new Federal Plan to abolish the hegenomic rule of private heath care giants, that dominate the Health Care roulette wheel across the diversity of populations of the US.

    In 2009 46-70 million Americans cannot afford and thereby continue to have no health care protection in a modern America that purports to retain its status ,as leader of western democracy, since the time of the `Founding Fathers in 1787. .

    In the US they forgot to include the human rights of all individuls to health care since Philadelphia in 1787 and as to date `The People’ still await the new constitutional amendment that confers the right to health treatment upon all citizens, at the behest of the Congress.

  • “my bet Virgina goes red and NJ stays blue.”

    I agree largely but I don’t think Deeds will lose by as much as has been predicted.

  • Yes, my suspicion/fear is that Obama voters will stay at home & McCain Oven Chips voters, driven by rage, will get their man in on a low turnout. That’s really the best Republicans can hope for.

    Too many Democrats thought Obama would be the messiah & didn’t realise that it is the citizenry’s responsibility to bring about meaningful change. You can’t just get your man in the white house & summon down blessings from heaven, you need to win over Congressmen with lobbying, threats, organisation because such is the US political system. The right-whingers are all there lobbying & mobilising themselves, but too many Democrats don’t believe in self-agency, don’t believe in their own power to do things, rely on Obama even though he plainly can’t do all the work himself.

    I understand discouragement that the early hopes have not been realised. But these hopes were never realistic. The Dems are still the better party, but if you want any good out of them you’d better demand it. If your representatives are stalling, it’s because they listen to right-whingers more than they listen to you, & that’s because you don’t make your voice heard.

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