Election Results Show Lack of Confidence in Obama

Election Day 2009 was not a repudiation of Barack Obama, but it sure wasn't a vote of confidence, either. Exit polls in Virginia and New Jersey showed that fewer than 40 percent of voters factored the president per se into their polling-booth equation. But the deep skepticism that the (shrunken) electorate showed toward Democratic candidates can't be interpreted in any other way than as a vote of not-quite-confidence in the man in the White House. The fact is, as the exits showed, voters are overwhelmingly worried about the economy—and the president has done little or nothing, it seems, to allay that fear. That presents an opening to the Republican Party next year, if they can take advantage of it.

Two gubernatorial elections do not a new national party make. Nationwide, the GOP currently has the allegiance of only one in five voters—the lowest percentage since Abe Lincoln was building the party a century and a half ago. If the Republicans are going to build on the momentum they acquired today, they are going to have to present credible alternative plans for economic revival. The national party might take a look at what Bob McDonnell did in Virginia. He had specific, detailed plans for transportation, education, and other bread-and-butter concerns in the state, especially in the swing-voter suburbs near Washington.

As for Obama, he needs to pass—and convincingly sell the virtues of—legislation that helps real people in real ways.