Elections test Obama support in key states

Associated Press | 11/4/2009, 4:48 a.m.
Local Election Results

Thomas M. Menino
63,123 • 57.3%
Michael F. Flaherty
46,768 • 42.4%

District 7
Chuck Turner
5,516 • 59.8%
Carlos T. Henriquez
3,641 • 39.5%

John R. Connolly
51,308 • 18.3%
Stephen J. Murphy
50,962 • 18.2%
Felix G. Arroyo
45,099 • 16.1%
Ayanna S. Pressley
41,847 • 14.9%
Tito Jackson
30,173 • 10.8%
Andrew P. Kenneally
24,215 • 8.6%
Tomas Gonzalez
18,297 • 6.5%
Doug Bennett
16,817 • 6.0%

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama isn’t on the ballot. Neither are all members of Congress, nor most governors.

But to varying degrees, the outcome of a few disparate elections Tuesday could provide clues about how people — particularly independents, who typically determine a winner — feel about their country, their president and the party in power one year after Democrats won the White House.

The results also could provide important lessons for Democrats and Republicans a year before the first major electoral test of Obama’s strength: 2010, when there are 37 races for governor, at least 36 in the Senate and all 435 in the House.

This year, Virginia and New Jersey are choosing governors, voters in upstate New York and northern California are deciding who should fill two vacant congressional seats, and New York City and Atlanta are picking mayors. Maine will vote on whether to permit gay marriage while Ohio will choose whether to allow casinos.

To be sure, these races are hardly bellwethers; people are voting on local issues and personalities. Most voters in Virginia and New Jersey, for example, say their like or dislike of Obama isn’t what will drive their decision. Still, national forces such as the recession are having an effect.

This much is clear: Tuesday will give a picture of public attitudes in certain places and measure which party has energy on its side heading into a high-stakes election year. Some questions will be at least answered partially.

Among them: Did Obama’s campaigning in Virginia and New Jersey persuade the diverse voting coalition that lifted him to victory in 2008 to turn out for Democratic candidates in 2009? Did fickle independents stick with the Democratic Party? Did the out-of-power GOP overcome fissures within its ranks to find a winning strategy?

The answers to those questions and more will provide hints about the nation’s possible political future and shape the actions of Democrats and Republicans heading into 2010.

Here’s what was at stake onTuesday:

Obama’s 2008 Coalition:

Does Obama have coattails?

The president won by cobbling together new voters from traditional Democratic base demographics, particularly blacks, youth and Hispanics, along with disaffected Republicans and self-identified independents nationwide and in traditionally GOP-leaning states such as Virginia.