ELIZANDRO: The ‘Age of Obama,’ comes to a swift close

John Elizandro

Like many other conservatives, I would say that the 2008 elections were not a pleasant experience. Not only was the Republican Party’s own mediocre presidential candidate roundly trounced by President Barack Obama, but Democrats gained five Senate seats and an astounding 21 House seats. Following the election, the conventional wisdom, shared by myself, was that the Republican Party and conservatism would enter a period of prolonged decline during the reign of Obama. Boy, were we wrong.

Just one year after Obama’s election, a series of off-year elections held in various states have disproven the advent of the “Age of Obama.” Though numerous elections were held across the country, commentators zeroed in on three races in particular judged to be important indicators of larger national trends: the gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia and a special House election in upstate New York.

After Obama appointed the congressman representing New York’s 23rd congressional district to a position in his administration, a special election was called to fill the vacancy. The Republican Party endorsed pro-choicer Dede Scozzafava to fill the seat. Scozzafava was deemed insufficiently conservative by many in her district, and local conservative businessman Doug Hoffman ran on a third-party ticket. Proving all her right-wing critics correct, Scozzafava eventually dropped out of the race and promptly endorsed the Democratic candidate. On Election Day, the Democratic candidate narrowly beat Hoffman, but there is little doubt that, had the Republican vote not been split, Hoffman would have likely carried the day.

The gubernatorial race in New Jersey is probably well-known to many students. Not only are many of our classmates New Jersey natives, but because a portion of New Jersey is in the Philadelphia media market, we were frequently subjected to campaign ads from both sides. Unpopular Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine was defeated by former Republican federal prosecutor Chris Christie.

I must admit, going into this election I was not confident of Christie’s chances. In a state with a reputation for political corruption like New Jersey, I was sure that Corzine would somehow “find” the votes to win. But most remarkable about Christie’s victory was that it occurred after President Obama campaigned vigorously for Corzine’s re-election. In the days leading up to the election, Obama practically became a New Jersey resident as he crisscrossed the state, holding rallies and making speeches on Corzine’s behalf.

The story was similar in Virginia, where Obama also spent time campaigning on the Democratic candidate’s behalf. There, Republican Bob McDonnell walloped Democrat Creigh Deeds by almost 20 points. Though Obama seemed to back off near the end when it was clear Deeds was headed for disaster, Obama’s popularity did little to improve his Democratic comrade’s image.

On top of that, McDonnell ran an excellent campaign, and his dramatic victory in a key swing state has spawned curiosity about his future ambitions. Remember Bob McDonnell’s name – he might someday make an excellent candidate for a far more important office on the other side of the Potomac River.

So what do the results of these elections mean? There is one observation: the Republican victories in New Jersey and Virginia both occurred in states Obama soundly carried just one year ago. It’s clear that much of the charm emanating from Obama has worn off.

The elections could also affect Obama’s presidency itself. Few would debate that he has pursued an aggressively liberal agenda that has made many senators and congressmen representing more moderate areas of the country skittish. Many vulnerable Democratic lawmakers are likely asking themselves, “If Obama’s personal popularity couldn’t save Corzine or Deeds, is it going to be able to save me?” How many Democratic lawmakers are going to follow Obama off the edge if they feel it might cost them their jobs?

Though it’s easy to read too far into specific election results, last week’s Republican victories make one thing clear: the “Age of Obama” has come to an abrupt end.


John Elizandro is a sophomore business major from Radnor, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].