Despite mainstream media predictions about the election hinging on the president's performance, it appears as though the economy was a much greater factor in the two key gubernatorial races yesterday. The economy was the anvil that crushed the chances of Democrats Jon Corzine and Creigh Deeds.
According to exit polls in Virginia and New Jersey, around 90% of voters said that they're concerned about the economy, while only around 18% said that their vote had anything to do with President Obama's performance so far.
What's clear is that if the economy continues to show improvement over the next 12 months, the midterms may end up mitigating some of the congressional losses the Democrats are bound to endure (history shows that sitting presidents almost always lose seats in their first midterm).
But that's still a pretty big "if."
Sure, the Dow is flirting with 10,000, and we can now safely begin to read our 401(k) statements again. And while economic growth is the strongest it's been since 2007, the jobless rate is still idling just shy of 10%. That means hundreds of thousands of us are still losing our jobs each month -- along with our health insurance which, by the way, ought to lend more urgency to passing a reform bill sometime soon.
The good news is that the economic stimulus package, for all its controversy, appears to be, you know, stimulating the economy. The Wall Street Journal reported: "The U.S. economy would have turned in a far worse performance in the third quarter without help from the federal government."
Meanwhile, the stimulus has created or saved anywhere from 300,000 to a million jobs, according to USA Today.
Just not quickly enough for Corzine and Deeds -- not to mention the millions of Americans who are out of work and praying they don't get sick or injured before they find another gig. And if the president wants independents to swing his way 12 months from now, job creation will have to accelerate. It's also worth noting that another stimulus package could do the trick, but how will independents react to more spending?
One way or another, next year as much as this year will be all about the economy.