Yesterday, Virginia gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell gave the GOP response to President Obama's weekly address. McDonnell gave the address only a few days after Obama attended a campaign event for McDonnell's opponent in Virginia, one of the two states that are having gubernatorial elections this year. With less than three months before the elections in Virginia and New Jersey, the battles have grown more intense as President Obama has waded into them.
President Obama has already shown his support for both Democratic gubernatorial candidates. In New Jersey, Obama campaigned for incumbent Governor Jon Corzine in early July. The Washington Post, after noting that Corzine helped out Obama in last year's presidential election, stated the following: "Now President Obama is returning the favor, making New Jersey his first full-fledged foray into active campaigning since taking office and trying to assist Corzine, who is struggling in his reelection bid." That same article later noted that "Obama called Corzine 'an ally with the Obama administration in helping us build a national recovery plan.' "
In Virginia, where Democrat R. Creigh Deeds is running against Republican McDonnell, President Obama also offered a strong endorsement for Deeds during a campaign event. Last Friday, the Washington Post reported that "The first Democratic president to win Virginia in more than four decades encouraged his supporters Thursday night to return to the polls in November and elect Democrat R. Creigh Deeds governor." That article later noted that "Obama could prove critical in revving up Democratic voters for Deeds, sparking interest among some of the thousands of new ones who were inspired by his campaign last year."
That interest could translate into more support for Corzine and Deeds but thus far, it has not translated into favorable poll numbers for either. Poll results featured on the Real Clear Politics website show an uphill battle for these Democrats this year. That site shows the results of Rasmussen Reports poll that currently has Chris Christie, Corzine's Republican oppononent, up by 13% in the New Jersey gubernatorial race and a DailyKos poll that has McDonnell up by 8%. (The latter poll was taken before Obama's visit to Virginia.)
The gubernatorial elections of 2009 are still a few months away but thus far, many would agree that the Republicans seem to be running stronger campaigns in both races. President Obama may want to continue the Democrats' success streak but the polling results show a rejection of these Democratic politicians rather than an embrace of them. It will be interesting to see how much Obama campaigns for these candidates in the upcoming weeks. Even if he does not campaign for them publicly, Democratic losses in 2009 could foreshadow national losses for Democrats in the near future. Each time Obama campaigns for them, though, more people will associate the state campaigns with the Democrats' national agenda and if the candidates do not succeed in their bids, that could prove to be another setback for an administration that has faced numerous setbacks in the past several weeks.
The Democratic candidates both have President Obama on their side and Obama still has the American public on his side but the question remains as to whether Obama's political allies will have their own constituents on their side this November.