Listen to this article

Did New Jersey and Virginia send a wake-up call to the White House?

All politics is local — so said former U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill.

O’Neill, a Bostonian who served for decades in the U.S. House of Representatives, knew a thing or two about politics. But he exaggerated — most politics, not all, is local.

That’s the lesson from the elections this week in Virginia and New Jersey, where solid Democratic states featured a slew of races, including those for governor.

Virginia Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe lost an un-losable race, while New Jersey’s Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy almost lost an un-losable race.

What happened? The races apparently were nationalized, the result being that McAuliffe and Murphy paid the price for the poll-reflected unpopularity of Democratic President Joe Biden.

Biden carried Virginia by 10 points and New Jersey by 16 just a year ago, the results then stemming from the fact that people, at least in part, were casting ballots against former President Donald Trump.

With the divisive Trump standing beside him, Biden looked comparatively good. But standing alone, with a 10-month record revealing his reverse Midas touch, Biden’s poll ratings are in the tank, and his fellow Democrats are suffering for their association with him.

That’s not idle speculation — that’s the conclusion the Democratic candidates drew as they campaigned for office.

The question now dominating the thoughts of the professional and permanent political class is what this week’s results mean for the off-year congressional elections in 2022 and the presidential election in 2024.

The answer, of course, is perfectly clear — no one knows. Much will happen between November 2021 and November 2022.

But it’s undeniable that Biden is struggling in the Oval Office and equally clear that his Pelosi/Sanders/AOC legislative agenda isn’t going down well with less liberal Senate and House Democrats.

Biden’s problems surely will increase now that the less-liberal Democrats have seen the perils and pitfalls that arise from following the lead of more-liberal Democrats.

Whether one views the current political stridencies guiding Biden & Co. as good or bad, there’s no question his current zeal is a far cry from the self-portrait Biden painted as the Democratic presidential nominee.

Then, he was “Joe from Scranton,” the healer who played well with Democrats and Republicans, pledged to search for political common ground and promised to turn his back on the divisions of the Trump years.

Instead, the atmosphere in Washington is no better, and Biden policy decisions are not having the desired results.

Biden’s declining poll numbers reflect across-the-board failures on the coronavirus pandemic, his unofficial open-borders policy and the horrendous Afghanistan withdrawal. There also are the serious issues involving the supply chain, labor-force participation and inflation.

As a consequence, the public is distinctly uncomfortable and disenchanted with the status quo.

That doesn’t have to be a permanent condition. At midpoint in his first-term presidency, Bill Clinton confronted a similar challenge, and he met it by changing his approach to governance.

Biden might do the same thing. If so, he’s got time to right the ship. But so far at least, he and his advisers have shown little interest in doing anything other than what they’ve been doing since the president took office in January.

Perhaps this week’s election results will spur further reflection on their part.

Trending Videos