So much in politics is built from expectations.
And the national GOP needs to start doing a much better job of setting expectations for the upcoming Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races.
By identifying Virginia and New Jersey as blue states, Republicans would be able to place them in the no-lose situation of defining the 2009 elections as Obama's first report card.
How do we define these expectations? Virginia has been turning blue for years. Obama won it by 6 points. Republicans haven't won the Governor's office since 1997. Both Senators are Democrats.
New Jersey? New Jersey hasn't voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988. They haven't had a Republican elected to the Senate since the 70s. And a Republican gubernatorial candidate hasn't won there since 1997.
New Jersey and Virginia are blue states.
"So what", you might say. "All politics is local. These are simply state elections. That's it.
Well, President Obama is doing his best to make sure that isn't the case.
President Obama made another trip to Virginia this past week in an attempt to keep the state in the Democratic column.Virginia is Obama's.
Obama, for more than two years, has been a frequent presence in the Old Dominion. During the presidential campaign, Obama visited Virginia 30 times, more than any other state. It was a strategy that paid off in the first Democratic presidential victory there since Lyndon Baines Johnson's in 1964.
And a Republican is currently winning by 15%.
So after defining them as Obama/blue states, what happens if Republicans win one or both of these states?
The GOP will be kickstarted into 2010. Potential candidates who were holding off from determining whether to run or not will see the following November as a perfect opportunity. Fundraising will spike. The media will be forced to acknowledge Republican momentum going into the midterms.
And, what happens if the polls flip and Democrats win both seats.
Nothing. Republicans will have defined them as blue states and be able to say on CNN that "nothing unexpected happened. The polls turned, and that's what we expected in two states that went sharply for Obama just one year ago."
It's a no-lose strategy.
Make it happen.