November 4th, 2009
12:51 PM ET
10 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. mike

    44% in Virginia and 40% in New Jersey said obama was a factor; after only 9 months in office, that is a cause of concern for this administration.

    November 4, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  2. kd

    of course they're local. let's move on.

    November 4, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  3. Thomas J. Rice

    Gibbs et. al. can spin this whatever way they want - the two governor races hurt Obama significantly (at least in the short term).

    While he smelled defeat in Virginia pretty early on (and so ran away from lending his support to Mr. Deeds) he was very involved in the New Jersey election, campaigning for Corzine five or more times.

    Don't believe a word you hear about this one - they are shocked in the White House that they lost New Jersey (to a pretty average Republican candidate) and they are running scared about how trends are going to play with moderate and conservative Dems. on the helath care bill.

    I'll tell you what, if the unemployment rate remains above 9.0% next November, Obama is going to be facing a very different Congress – goodbye activist agenda, goodby left wing Supreme Court justices.

    November 4, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  4. Brian

    Funny that before the elections, those specific elections were they hold no meaning because they don't fall in your favor. Get your stories straight!!!

    November 4, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  5. Conserva-Baggers are bad for America

    Well, George Jones, you're right. The exit polls indicating that President Obama did not factor into their voting decisions can, I suppose, indicate that "Obama is irrelevant" . . . as ANY President should be irrelevant in a local election! Keep grasping at straws, though.

    November 4, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  6. Airdoc

    If the democrats won in those states then it would have been because of the greatness of obama's visits to NJ. They didn't pay millions of dollars expecting to lose. Now that they lost both, it doesn't matter? What a joke!

    November 4, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  7. Craig of LA

    Politics is all local. In addition the Virginia candidate was feeble and declared himself "not an Obama Democrat." What a way to inspire the base! Corzine was incompetent and suffered his fate. The commentary is local and the exit polls indicate that the voter's decision was focused and determined by local issues as state elections always are.

    The outcome in the NY 23rd was predictable – the locals did not like the heavy handed interference in their back yard by national republican figures. This grandstanding for their own self-interests clearly back-fired. Thank you Sarah – the progressive movement's greatest weapon to ensure our dominance for years to come. We will be contributing to your campaign as it is money well spent!

    November 4, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  8. Robin

    It they were just "local" elections, then why did Omama make THREE very high profile trips to NJ for Corzine?

    Plus, Christie had over 60% of the Indendent vote, which tells me that people are not happy with the direction our country is going in.

    Spin it however you want, but this is on Obama.

    November 4, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  9. joe

    Liberal America wake up. This is what is goingto happent o you in 2010. The american people are tired of you , Obama and the Repbulicans. The independents put Obama into the Wite House, not the Democratic Party. The independents are now waking up and seeing the nothingness of CHANGE and Transperasey promised. The polls indicate that Obama is popular. His approval ratings of programs is not over 50 %. Get your facts straight. I do not see alot of you liberal supporters backing this statement. Why, becasue they know the American people are fed up. No jobs, not out of Iraq, not out of Afghanistan, promises broken, lies and more lies. Both parties need to wake upl. Hopefully every incumbant will be voted out in 2010 and we can truthfully get this country back on track

    November 4, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  10. Donna Stayman

    I am "shocked" that the WH puppets are spinning these terrific victories in VA & NJ as just local nonsense. We all know without a doubt that it's a scathing indictment of the Obama/Pelosi/Reid gang and their socialist agenda. I cannot wait until fall 2010! GO GOP!

    November 4, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  11. Lisa

    Agreed...what KO said...

    November 4, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  12. gl, From Pittsburgh

    I do not believe that the two Republican victories are about our President. As a matter of fact last night two Moderate Republicans won the Gubernatorial races while two Democrats won congressional seats. One of these Congressional seats was in a district that a Democrat has not won in over a hundred years. I do believe however that last night was a clear referendum on the so called Conservative movement. When Republicans turn and back a Democrat rather then a Conservative candidate it does not speak well of the Party of teabaggers and Limbaugh. Last night confirms that American are rejecting the AM radio and FOX Propaganda Conservative ideology. Over all I believe that both the Republican and Democratic parties should be celebrating the fact that sanity has overcome.
    Republicans 2

    Democrats 2

    Party of wingnuttery 0

    November 4, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  13. Bob in Pa

    That's okay Bobby, believe what you will. But know we are all just waiting for the day we can fire you too!

    November 4, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  14. David

    How does this guy consistently spin so fast without falling down??? He reminds me of the game where you put a baseball bat to your forehead, spin around and then try to run. To even suggest that the gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia have nothing to do with the president is ludicrous. Independents put Obama over the top in both states last year and this year those same independents went for the GOP candidates in droves. Round and round Gibbs goes and where he stops, nobody knows!!!!

    November 4, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  15. rachel

    Ha yeah spin spin spin, Obama only went to help about 3 times within 2 weeks and shipped someone who helped him on his campaign to help corzine. Yeap no reflection on him what so ever lol.

    November 4, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  16. Joe in CT - not Lieberman!!!

    One comment, Goober! Remember what Tip O'Neill said. "All politics is local!" Do not denigrate these local elections as these are the same people who will be voting next year for Congress and 1/3 of the Senate! We really don't want the Reactionaries, sorry, I mean Conservatives to take over again. So be nice to the local electorate!

    November 4, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  17. JB Cal

    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.

    Leave Your Comment

    Sounds like wishful thinking on your part.

    November 4, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  18. File under "Sarcasm"

    The bottom line as "George Jones" stated in his comment is that "Obama is irrelevant". Voters in Virginia and New Jersey swept President Obama into office based on "hope and change" and a lot of other politicians won on his coat tails. Now it appears that hope for change has faded as voters have realized he is just another liberal politician and that the coat tails have also disappeared. It doesn't bode well for all those new Democrats in the House when they come up for re-election in 2010 with no Pied Piper Obama to lead the ticket.

    November 4, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  19. fellow from chicago

    You keep thinking that Gibbs while we Republicans and Independents carry you and your boss out of the WH in 2012. America gave Obama a chance and he's blown it by swinging further to the far left while increasing taxes and debt to a point of no return. No more!

    November 4, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  20. Dieter Zerressen

    Gubenatorial elections turn mostly on local issues and the "what have you done for me lately" syndrome. Corzine was a Wall Street banker who didn't do much to help the folks of NJ and Creed ran away from Obama at first and then latched on to him at the end, appearing desperate. NY's 23rd district is another matter: that one had been Republican since the Civil War. That WAS a huge win for progressives and a HUGE loss for Palin, Pawlenty, Limbaugh, Beck and that Law & Order clown.

    November 4, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  21. Chipster

    Gibbs may be right but, as a committee person, I'm very disappointed at the turn out in yesterday's election in my district. Both parties in my district turned out fewer than 20% of the voters. These were school district and judicial elections – very important to our local students and statewide legal issues.

    If it isn't in a sound bite that makes a voter angry, they just don't seem to care. It seems anymore as if the Party that generates the most fear and anger wins most often. It's very sad for our country.

    November 4, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  22. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    36 years, that's right 36 years since any President's political party won in those states, that means Republicans and Democrats.

    November 4, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  23. John L. NYC

    I agree that it was about local issues – particularly the absurd property taxes in our neighboring NJ – however, this must have meant something to them to spend political capital campaigning there and it is a signal the Democratic leadership should not entirely discount. Independents who voted for Obama (like me) have become increasingly frustrated with their vote having felt misled by his implied position on the political spectrum and a lack of concrete decision making. I know I was one of those independents out there voting in NYC yesterday to reinject some balance into the equation (never voted in a mayoral or local race before). If they are not careful, this is the way the tide could easily flow going forward so they should not completely discount it.

    November 4, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  24. Nea

    To me yes its about local issues but too, i dont think voters is that excited as they were 1 year ago so maybe the Republicans turnout was more than the Democrats turnout was because we already have what we wanted in the Whitehouse and he Will stay there until his 8 years is up.

    November 4, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  25. WMG

    quoted from CNN article reporting on Tim Kaine current Virginia Governor, but mostly the Democratic Party national Chairperson
    "The governor suggested that both races hinged on local rather than national issues and that the president "was not really a factor" in either contest. While a majority of voters in both states said the president did not influence their choice for governor, exit polls indicated that national issues like the economy and health care weighed heavily on voters' minds."
    Sounds like the president did have some influence.

    November 4, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
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