[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/04/art.gibbs1104.gi.jpg caption="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.