What Yesterday's Elections Actually Mean For Barack Obama

We told you about Mike, and about The Gays, but there were a couple other elections that news people are talking about today. These were, obviously, early referenda on Barack Obama, and he lost.

Sure, if you live in New Jersey or Virginia you might've thought the gubernatorial campaigns in those two states were mostly about taxes and jobs (and weight), but that is wrong. These were shadow reelection campaigns for Barack Obama, and he lost both of them, because he is a failure.

Republican Bob McDonnell won in Virginia by a huge margin against Democrat Creigh Deeds, who was a white, conservative Democrat from southern Virginia, thus ensuring that not a single member of the coalition that won VA for Obama in 2008 would turn out to vote.

In Jersey, Republican Chris Christie squeaked by incumbent Jon Corzine. Corzine's was the campaign Obama belatedly lent his support to, once Corzine's double-digit polling deficit shrank to a couple points. This campaign was entirely about property taxes, basically, and so a Republican who campaigned entirely on cutting proptery taxes won.

Once again, gubernatorial elections have almost nothing to do with national politics. They are not House and Senate races. Meanwhile, in the nation's only two House races yesterday, Democrats won. They won handily in a California race that no one paid attention to, because a safe Democratic seat staying Democratic is not as newsworthy as a safe Republican seat that almost went to a Republican until national movement conservatives freaked out and excommunicated Dede Scozzafava from the Church of Teabagging. And then a Democrat won in New York's 23rd. He won a seat that's been a gimme for Republicans since a 1992 redistricting. (Before it was redistricted, this area of the state has been Republican since the 19th century. In 2002 the Republican ran unopposed.)

Please keep in mind that Obama picked up a new Democratic vote in the House of Representatives while you read some analysis piece on how Obama has just been crushed, politically.

As we said before, the special election in New York's 23rd was the only race yesterday that had anything to do with national politics, because movement conservatives inserted themselves into the race and promptly lost. In what could easily actually be a preview of next year's midterms, teabaggers and the conservative Club for Growth and Sarah Palin all threw their support behind a candidate they found more acceptable than the Republican, and their guy lost. As activists from out of town flooded the district, shouting nonsense about ACORN and waving "Don't Tread on Me" flags, imagining they'd already won, the Democrat turned out the vote and rode to victory on the back of union support and the president's popularity in the region.

And look at that: unions and GOTV made the difference! Hell, some of that might've won New York for Bill Thompson, even without Obama's support!

Here is the real lesson about and for Obama, though, and it touches on every single race yesterday: in 2008, Obama borrowed Howard Dean's 50-state strategy for the Democrats—open and staff DNC offices in every state to organize and run campaigns at every level—and applied it to the presidential primaries and general elections. He raised a ridiculous amount of money and compiled an amazing email list and organized a huge number of volunteers and won the presidency.

After the election, Obama turned those campaign resources into Organizing For America, "a grassroots network wielding some 13 million email addresses to mobilize former volunteers on behalf of the administration's agenda." And then they folded it into the DNC and they didn't do anything with it for months. And then it turned out that this massive organization couldn't be utilized to do much besides fundraise and canvass, and furthermore its ties to the DNC and the White House mean it can't actually be used to push progressive causes, which are the causes that this massive volunteer army cares about.

This means, basically, that the DNC has neutered Obama's progressive volunteer army and that massive volunteer army has consumed the DNC. The whole operation is now a 2012 reelection campaign already in progress, and if you are a local Democrat looking for organizing and canvassing and fundraising support of the kind Howard Dean promised to create for you back when he was in charge, you are shit out of luck.

This is the most worrying indicator for 2010. They need to fix this.