November 4th, 2009
12:51 PM ET
4 years ago

Gibbs dismisses losses as 'local elections'

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called Tuesday's races in New Jersey and Virginia 'local elections.'
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called Tuesday's races in New Jersey and Virginia 'local elections.'

WASHINGTON (CNN) – White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs dismissed Democratic electoral defeats in New Jersey and Virginia as "two very local elections" that say nothing about President Barack Obama's standing with the American people right now.

"It's hard to pick national trends out of local elections," Gibbs told reporters at a Wednesday briefing just hours after incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine was knocked out despite Obama's two appearances in New Jersey on Sunday. Obama also had campaigned for Creigh Deeds, the Democratic candidate for governor in Virginia, who lost as well.

Gibbs noted that exit polls showed the number two issue in New Jersey was local property taxes, and claimed that and other data shows the gubernatorial races were decided on local issues "that did not involve the president."

But Gibbs was eager to tout Democrat Bill Owens' victory in the hotly contested House special election to represent New York's 23rd Congressional District. The press secretary noted that GOP officials "purged" the Republican candidate in the race to make way for Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman.

Hoffman's rise was fueled by Republican luminaries such as Sarah Palin and Tea Party activists who are fired up by charges that Obama is trying to expand the size of the federal government, but in the end Hoffman lost to Owens by several points.

"It proves anger can get 45 percent of the vote," said Gibbs. "It doesn't win a lot of elections."

Asked if he has concerns, however, that conservative Democrats in Congress will get "spooked" by the election results and run away from Obama's health care push and other agenda items, Gibbs said, "I don't think they will, and I am not concerned."

Gibbs said Obama is planning on Wednesday to call the Republican winners in New Jersey and Virginia, Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell, to congratulate them on their victories. He said Obama called Corzine and Deeds on Tuesday night to offer his support, but did not want to interrupt the celebrations that Christie and McDonnell were having with their families and supporters on Election Night.


Filed under: New Jersey • NY-23 • Robert Gibbs • Virginia
soundoff (108 Responses)
  1. George Jones

    Exit polls sow that Obama did not factor in on their votiing decisions. This really indicates that Obama is irrelevant.

    I don't think that is a good thing no matter how the media trys to spin it.

    November 4, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  2. KO

    Gibbs is right. Obama has over 50% approval ratings in both Virginia and New Jersey (57% in NJ), and well over 50% of voters in both states told exit pollers that their feelings about Obama didn't factor into their vote. These elections were about local issues and, frankly, weak Democratic candidates.

    November 4, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  3. marion/alabama

    What would you expect Gibbs to say, That Obama is done,over,and the liberals can stay at home for the 2010 elections? Obama went to N.J. 3 times had 5 fund raises for Corzine and went to Virginia 3 times and still they lost? I would say it has something to with Obamas standing with the American people,who are tired of Washingtons Tax,Spend and Borrow policies. When Obama said N.J. was a pawn in hie agenda, what is Obama's agenda raise Taxes,have more corruption in his administration,like N.J. has had?

    November 4, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  4. RobK

    Perhaps Obama wasn't a factor, but the Democratic platform most certainly was. Of course, the Dems aren't going to admit that. In public, anyway.

    November 4, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  5. db

    How stupid does Gibbs think we are?

    November 4, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  6. clbrune

    More importantly, the Democratic candidates are irrelevant: rather than trying to turn out voters by appealing to those who voted for Obama, they are just trying to peel away Republican voters (older, whiter, more conservative).

    It will lead to failed elections, and more of the same old politics.

    November 4, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  7. single mom

    Exit polls? Please. I've been in those. Went to vote with a group of friends and someone was asking us who we voted for, why and what influenced us, etc. We told her straight faced the opposite of how we'd voted. Because we'd heard how she turned away from someone who didn't vote the way she wanted! So, we lied. And laughed as we walked away because she was on the phone to someone talking about how 'something had worked.'

    The ONLY polls that count are the ones with actual ballots. That's it. No opinion polls. No exit polls. No random surveys. Remember that in the next twelve months because we're going to be deluged with them on a daily basis.

    November 4, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  8. Blutarski

    Then why did Obama waste the travel time to campaign in these "local elections"?

    November 4, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  9. Padraig

    That was a ridiculous statement made by Gibbs but he is known for that. KO points out Obama's rating is over 50% in each state. I would like to know the exact numbers from the time he took office until now.

    November 4, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  10. Tavis Forrester

    It is an interesting historical fact that in Virginia most governors have been elected from the opposing party of their Congressional representatives. Historically that has meant that the governor is Democrat and that the state representatives are Republican, and this pattern continues now that Democrats have taken the Congressional seats.

    November 4, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  11. Lori in St Pete

    Rethuglicans are funny. When they were in the majority, their de facto leader and all the screaming heads on reich-wing radio and tv told told their listening audiences to not worry about national issues and to become a thorn in the sides of their local and state governments. But now that they're in the minority, the marching orders have changed, and it's all about national issues again.

    November 4, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  12. franco

    I find it incredible that a WH official would make such a claim. Hey, Gibbs, ya think the American people are stupid? Had VA/NJ had the opposite effect, you would hold news conferences all day long to take credit. And don't tell me the president was disinterested last night but chose to watch the Chicago Bullst, after he took three trips to NJ on behalf of Corzine. You do well if you stop BSing the American people. If you speak the truth, you will command respect. So start NOW!!!

    November 4, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  13. LacrosseMom

    Gibbs is right. As CNN reported in an article, few seemed to have read, Virginia chooses a governor of the opposite party, i.e., if there is a Democrat in the White House they vote for the Republican, and vice versa. This is an important bit of Virginian trivia!

    NJ ousted Corzine, but..... Corzine was already in trouble when Obama was elected a year ago.

    PS. folks, governors are about local politics not national.

    The REALLY BIG STORY IS .... NY-23....... who REJECTED Palin's & Beck's meddling........ and VOTED FOR THE DEMOCRAT FOR THE ..........FIRST.......TIME........ IN ........A........ 100 YEARS!

    November 4, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  14. Steve (the real one)

    Yes they were but local elections that somehow caused the DNC and the administration to spend lots of money, time, and effort!

    November 4, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  15. Mark

    NJ and VA vote Republican!

    November 4, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  16. Gale

    Get a grip, folks. I'm beginning to think the polls are like ACORN, filled with corruption and lies!

    November 4, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  17. Jeremy

    This is typical of this administration: downplaying the opposition's victories yet touting the Democrat victories and using these to attack the Republican party. I think they should be very afraid of the New Jersey victory: a very liberal state has just went for a conservative Republican. Seems to me that the people of New Jersey were tired of Corzine and the liberals and wanted true "change". This could be a sign of things to come in 2010.

    November 4, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  18. Judy

    How convenient to dismiss the two GOP gubernatorial wins and yet Gibbs wants to tout the NY congressional win. Main stream America is upset at what is going on in Washington and this is a wake-up call. If the Dems want to deny it, that's fine with me. Main stream America will speak loud and clear come November 2010 and unless our elected officials start LISTENING they will be on the outside looking in.

    November 4, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  19. Tony

    Local elections? Then why was OB going to those states campaigning for the losers? What a bad spin doctor Gibbs is. This is only the beginning, in one year Dems have a good chance of losing the House and will definitely be stymied in the Senate as their 60 votes will be gone. Maybe then we can have true bipartison bills, not this "liberal we will jam it down your throats" mentality. Hoep tough GOP, stop the looney left from turning America towards socialism, the first shot was fired yesterday, with an entire volley coming in 12 months.

    November 4, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  20. Ann

    Be a man and accept the loss.

    November 4, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  21. Amazing

    Go ahead and convince yourself, cause you certainly aren't convincing us. If it's no big deal, why did Obama waste so many tax payer dollars flying around on his tax payer provided private jet to campaign for his fellow Democrats? The man who promised to work for ALL Americans was doing what he does best.......campaigning. Little did we know we hired a Campaigner in chief...........and he even failed at that. Couldn't get the Olympics, couldn't get his boys elected. Would love a report how much of OUR money he wasted on these worthless trips.

    November 4, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  22. Fitz in Texas

    HAHAHAH.....Gibbs just keeps me laughing.....oooops, sorry, shouldn't laugh when a foolish man says foolish things.

    November 4, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  23. Chad

    "Exit polls sow that Obama did not factor in on their votiing decisions. This really indicates that Obama is irrelevant."

    While I got a chuckle, Obama is still a bit too relevant for my tastes.

    As much as they call this local only and the voters state that Obama had nothing to do with this, it is still an obvious indication of a change in attitude. A year ago, an Obama endorsement would have gotten you the keys to Ft. Knox. Influence has obviously slipped.

    November 4, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  24. Mike

    It they are so local why did the president and the VP campaign? Politics has become more about spinning than leading.. very sad!

    November 4, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  25. REG in AZ

    The Republican leadership is obviously not interested in negotiating. They are not interested in compromise; they are not interested in finding solutions in the best interests of the majority; they are literally belligerent, obnoxious, stubborn and even arrogant in irresponsibly seeking to block/obstruct everything/anything while offering only bazaar, exaggerated and emotional appeals to discredit, while aggressively trying to manipulate public opinion and justify returning to ‘more of the same’, the same that cost us so much over the last eight years. It really isn’t about conservative or liberal as that is just hyped up for effect. Our representatives, regardless of political party, are suppose to honestly and conscientiously negotiate and come to compromises in the best interests of the people, without selling out to the Special Interests who strongly support them. We really need not to forget the Republicans’ concentrated focus and total commitment when strongly supporting Bush-Cheney and recognize that it just hasn’t changed. Special Interests are still their task-masters. What we should be doing is concentrating on giving them the message that they really do need to change! Otherwise … very possibly ‘more of the same’ is the likely result. Personally, even as an ex-long-term Republican now Independent, I am disgusted and offended that they seek to sway us with their insulting subterfuge and that they literally just take us for granted. We need a strong Republican Party that sincerely strives to serve the American people and not only the powerful, influential and wealthy few. To see them regain that focus we must reject what they have become. We surely need fine-tuning of the current proposals but even more, we need conscience driven representatives that can sincerely put the people’s interests first.

    November 4, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
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