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. Ed Tallahassee

    I think the bigger story is NY-23 and the Republicans fighting among themselves so much that they lost a Strongly Republican district. It shows that the Right Wing of the Republican Party is trying to force out any moderates.

    Bring the Tea Baggers to Florida and watch Rubio-out Right Christ to win the Primary, but then lose all Moderate Support, and the General Election.

    November 4, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  2. inofritzn

    Yes, local, that's why Obama campaigned in NJ 5 times on 3 different trips. Yes this meant nothing to them or maybe it just meant nothing to the voters that Obama showed up.

    November 4, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  3. Fooled by republicans no more

    Sara Palin's endorsement, Glenbeck, the teabaggers, were all the
    kiss of death for the republicans in NY- 23.

    This was the only race that was of any real importance to the Democrats. And we won the congressional seat.

    The republicans think that electing a republican in a state that is
    traditionally red republican anyway(but turned blue during the national
    election, ha ha) somehow delivered them a victory. If Virginia wants to
    be ruled by the same republicans who ruined the country no less than
    one year ago, then let them.

    However , the majority of Americans will not be fooled again.

    November 4, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  4. Daniel Schlafer

    Press Secretary Gibbs is telling the truth much more than Sarah Palin saying " it is just put off until 2010 [ NY congtrssional district 23 ] " or the RNC chairman striking a Heisman pose .

    November 4, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  5. Rose

    Local elections don't matter much to Obama, I guess that is why he made five trips there, don't tell me he wasn't upset especially in New Jersey.

    November 4, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  6. phoenix86

    Clearly, Obama has jumped the shark.

    November 4, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  7. Mark

    And of course the WH is going to downplay the message that these two elections sends. They started doing it a couple days before the election when the polls showed that there was no way they would win. If they were ahead a couple days before we would've heard the WH spouting off about how these elections will prove BHO's popularity. Just more political spin both ways. Always.

    November 4, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  8. shmeckel

    I have to disagree with Gibbs, CNN and white house aides that Obama was not a factor. If +or- 50% of exiting voters said Obama did not affect their vote that leaves +or- 50% that did let it affect their vote. I understand they have to put a positive spin on things but that is an outright lie.

    I hope our country is in better shape during the next couple rounds of elections. When a country is in bad shape during elections people tend to make odd decisions in hopes that radical ideas will make everything better. When independents start voting for candidates out of spite because they are disgruntled with the opposition, everybody looses. Experience and time tested ideas lose out to political promises.

    November 4, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  9. Greg

    If you add up the votes cast in NY 23, two thousand five hundred more people voted Conservative and Republican than they did Democrat. Even though Scozzofava dropped out, she still garnered almost 7000 votes because her name remained on the ballot. If you add those Republican votes to those for the Conservative, the majority of people in the district are right of center and the majority's will was NOT realized. So even though the Democrat won, this is still an ideological WIN for the right and a statement against the far left ideology Obama and Congress have forced upon us.

    So... in all three of the closely watched races, more votes were cast for right-of-center candidates. The raw numbers SHOULD be a warning to moderate Dems to watch their step if they want to keep their jobs. But spin it however you like. The fact that almost half the voters said Obama WAS a consideration in their local races is a HUGE number.

    November 4, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  10. Expat American

    George Jones November 4th, 2009 12:53 pm ET
    Exit polls show that Obama did not factor in on their votiing decisions. This really indicates that Obama is irrelevant.
    This doesn't really indicate anything, except the slightest delay in the gradual final extinction of Republican Party 'Values'. People were voting for their local representation. I wouldn't base the national election in 2016; that is after Obama's second term to be that influenced by the NJ State Election in 2009. NJ will most likely go blue in 2016 (and 2012).

    November 4, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  11. tee

    Let the repugs have their day.....what else do they have?.......NOTHING

    November 4, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  12. Biased

    Did anyone really expect any different response to this loss in Virginia and definitely New Jersey? Obama and Biden were up there with constant visits and TV commercials all saying what an important partner Corzine was to them and then when he loses it means nothing??? This response is laughable and shows how far they stretch their own credulity with the American public. Do they really feel people are that dumb that they will believe this garbage?

    November 4, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  13. dems got beat down

    I agree, it was local

    but don't loose sight of the lessons

    get the work done, be less about entertainment and more about the welfare of the electorate

    November 4, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  14. MobsterNadia


    Yet somehow, a DEM victory would be a referendum. Funny how that works!!!
    Also, explain why did Obama campaigned so hard in those states if the loss would not be a referendum? Hmmmmm

    Let's not forget the approval ratings for Obama is down fr approx. 67-72% in Feb to barely 50%!!

    I guess NJ & Vare the exception for Obama's spirally job approval numbers right?

    Keep spinning MSM!!!

    November 4, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  15. Kathie

    If weak democratic candidates with problematic local issues were so significant in Viriginia and New Jersy why did President Obama use tax payer funds to campaign for them?

    November 4, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  16. JR

    It is more about the whole Democratic Party, including President Obama himself. They have been unable to take advantage of the power that has been handled to them by the people to fix this country.
    -Unable to cap the credit cards interest rate.
    -Unable to have the health care reform properly done.
    -Unable, unable, unable, and unable to everything, even to call out the GOP obstructionism.
    -Taking the GOP tone, which unfairly blames middle class and poors of this country for the last year financial clash, whereas it is the greedy and barbaric behavior of those financial institutions that put them in hardship situation. It is absolutely not because they borrowed bigger than their pockets. Their pockets were prepared for 12% APR, as they agreed with those banks, and not 34% as imposed by banks with the support of credit report agencies..
    -Bailing out banks instead of people, so they can pay banks. Even President Bush gave every family $1,500 out of the $148 billion stimulus while President Obama has denied stimulus to regular people out $748 billions stimulus.
    Therefore, why wasting time to go vote for them again?

    November 4, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  17. TJ

    All I can say is wait till 2010...Dems are going to get crushed.

    November 4, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  18. Joe M

    Count the number of times this guy says "AHHHHH" in any converstaion. Every other word..

    November 4, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  19. uncle ellsworthey

    Kinda seems to me that what Gibbs is saying is pretty much what losers always say. They are in a state of denial, of course it was about Obama, maybe not him personally but certainly his policies. The very fact that he could not really help either of them speaks volumes as to his decline. The voters who stayed away are also a big statement to Obama as to his waning popularity, they didn't care enough to support him any longer. One more little thing, of course it was a "local election", they all are regardless of the outcome, so that says essentially nothing.

    November 4, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  20. Lavar Simpson

    The biggest losers in yesterday's contests are the wingnuts of the radical right wing of the GOP: teapartiers, birthers, deathers, 9-12ers, Glen Beck, Dick Armey, Sarah Palin, Limbaugh & the other rabid conservative talkers of the extreme Right. The Dems lost in states where local issues dominated and where the Dem candidates ran poor races. More importantly, the won two house seats in GOP strongholds ( NY-23 since the Civil War!). Two more votes in the House for Health Care Reform! Yeah baby!

    November 4, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  21. Andrew

    I dont see why the fauxnews ditto heads thinks that obama should care about this election. The two important elections (over congresional seats) went to democrats. Just because the GOP makes a huge issue over the elections that they know they are going to win doesn't mean the rest of us are going to hop on the bandwagon and care too.

    November 4, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  22. chris

    keep singin' gibby! it's your lie. live it how you want!

    better start working on your 2010 election excuses....NOW!!

    November 4, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  23. Indiana Voter

    Spin, spin, spin. It's all about damage control for the White House today. Fortunately, most intelligent people that get their news from reputable news organizations, (not just CNN), will understand that.

    November 4, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  24. linda

    it is amazing if the democrats had won they would loudly spin it as against the Gop polices but when it is a victory for the gop it is not against the democrats polices that brought out huge crowds at townhalls they prtray it as local issues. in your dreams guys nice try!!!!

    November 4, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  25. seebofubar

    If you think for one minute that this doesn't reflect on Obama, then I have a bridge to sell you. He and Biden personally spent a great amount of time campaining for these two and they lost. If nothing else, it shows a loss of influence and a lack in confidence in both Pbama and Biden. Left wing dems are going to vote and support Obama no matter what. It's the certrist dema and the independent voters that matter in elections and they have lost their trust!

    November 4, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
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