Saturday, September 21, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Do The Off-Year Elections Matter in 2013?

Every two years there are national congressional elections
in which the entire U.S. house of representatives goes to
the voters. U.S. senators have six-year terms, so one-third
of that body goes before the voters every two years.
Gubernatorial terms in the 50 states are mostly four-years,
although some states still have two-year terms. But most
contests for governor coincide with the two-year cycle of
the national elections.

Two states, however, schedule their gubernatorial elections
between the two-year cycles. As a result, New Jersey and
Virginia will hold their elections for governor this
November. As an unusual twist on this, New Jersey will also
hold in mid-October a special election for U.S. senator to
fill the seat of the late incumbent who recently died.

The question is, especially because the nation is on the cusp
of a pivotal mid-term election in 2014, will the results in
2013 tell us anything about might happen in 2014?

In 2009, of course, the same states held the same elections
for governor, and the special U.S. senate race was held in
Massachusetts where incumbent liberal icon Ted Kennedy
had unexpectedly died. (The actual vote in the senate special
election in the Bay State was conducted in early 2010.)
Massachusetts, being one of the most liberal states in the
nation, was considered a slam-dunk for the Democrats as
was the race for governor in New Jersey, but the results sent
out shock waves  when the two Republicans, political unknown
Scott Brown won the senate seat, and little-known Chris
Christie were elected governor of New Jersey. At the same
time, a Republican was elected governor of Virginia,
interrupting several terms of Democratic governors.
In 2010, the GOP won historic victories in the U.S. house,
taking back control of it by a large margin. Republicans
also significantly increased their representation in the
senate, and picked up many governors.

In retrospect, then, 2009 was a signal of what was to follow
in the national mid-term elections of 2010.

In 2013, Governor Christie is running for re-election, and
holds a huge lead in the polls against his Democratic
opponent.  Mayor Cory Booker of Newark likewise holds
a huge lead in the polls agains his GOP opponent in the
New Jersey senate race. In Virginia, there is a very close
contest for governor between Republican state Attorney
General Ken Cuccinelli and long-time Democratic
operative Terry McAuliffe.

It would appear that, unlike 2009, there is very little chance
that 2013 will mean much about next year’s elections.
Of course, if either Mr. Christie (currently one of the
frontrunners for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination) or
Mr. Booker lost, those upsets would be shocking, but the
possibility of either, barring something now unforeseen,
is almost nil. The race for Virginia governor is something
of a spectacle of political contempt. Each candidate is
idiosyncratically controversial registering unusually high
negatives in polls. Mr. Cucinelli has been labeled as too
conservative, and Mr. McAuliffe has been associated with
numerous scandals. As election day approaches, Mr.
McAuliffe’s initial lead in the polls has faded into a
virtual tie. It is probably going to be an ugly, knock-down
battle at the end, and it is difficult to imagine how either
party if it wins, would be able to credibly spin their victory
as having national implications.

The most newsworthy story will probably be the margin
of Mr. Christie’s victory, and how that plays into the
governor’s now presumed presidential ambitions.

Not that party leaders and some commentators won’t try
to make something out of the other results, but no one
should buy any spin that will result.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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