But reasons for the second straight Democratic triumph for governor of Virginia go beyond Bush fatigue. "I'm not going to blame the president," Jim Gilmore, the last Republican elected to the governorship and former national party chairman, told me on election night after Kaine's victory was apparent. He added: "We have to stand up for the taxpayer to present a firm and consistent message."
Gilmore was elected in 1997 when Democrats opposed his promised repeal of the hated car tax. Eight years later, Democrats transmuted Gov. Mark Warner's tax increase by claiming the mantle of fiscal responsibility thanks to Republican waffling on taxes. Kilgore epitomized what was wrong with the Virginia Republicans by sounding an uncertain trumpet on taxes and abortion.
There was no reason for Republican joy elsewhere on Tuesday. The party's big win was the re-election landslide in New York City of Michael Bloomberg, who governs largely as a Democrat. The easy victory for governor of New Jersey of a flawed candidate, Sen. Jon Corzine, represented the futility of relying on self-financed candidate Douglas Forrester, who was despised by social conservatives. In California, the defeat of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's ballot issues represented a lost opportunity nationally to curb labor union political power.
Bush gets the blame. In the days immediately preceding Tuesday's elections, Republican committee chairmen in Congress grew increasingly contemptuous of their president. Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, dismissed Bush's Social Security plan as something to be shelved until after the 2008 presidential election. Rep. Joe Barton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, opposed Bush's requested $7 billion to fight bird flu. Thanks to Virginia, the president can expect more of the same.