Unquestionably, conservatives will attempt to spin gubernatorial wins in Virginia and New Jersey as somehow signaling a shift in national mood, but as Kevin Drum points out, when balanced with Democratic pick ups in the House in CA-10 and NY-23, it’s a bit more of a story of ousting the incumbents. What’s more, as Matt Yglesias notes, national polling is actually a better way of gauging the national mood, and that unequivocally favors Barack Obama and the Democrats.
Finally, you can make the argument that Democratic wins in the House are far more important for advancing the national liberal agenda. Brian Beutler at TPM explains:
That creates some simple arithmetic. Yesterday, Democrats had 256 voting members in the House. By week’s end, they’ll have 258. Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could afford to lose no more than 38 Democratic votes on a landmark health care reform bill. Next week, after Owens and Garamendi are sworn in, she can lose up to 40. For legislation this historic and far-reaching, she’ll need every vote she can get–and both seem likely to support reform.
These wins then are a bit more important in strategic terms than the GOP gubernatorial sweep. Ultimately, Democrats will be judged by the success or failure of their policies — much as the GOP was in 2008 — and the greater the likelihood of passing good legislation, the greater the likelihood it will pay electoral dividends down the line.
While it’s important to win elections, a lot of political observers get too caught up these contests as ends in and of themselves, but that’s incredibly short-sighted. Just ask Karl Rove how easy it was to maintain that “permanent Republican majority” in the midst of a decaying health care system, plummeting economy, and unpopular and expensive wars.