The Tuesday defeat of incumbent Democratic New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine is proof that the Obama magic touch has waned. In a close race, the president's involvement seems to have done more to antagonize dissidence among voters than to inspire support.
In the two weeks heading into Election Day, President Obama campaigned not once, not twice, but three times for Mr. Corzine, a former chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Despite this robust presidential effort, Republican challenger Chris Christie handily defeated Mr. Corzine 49 percent to 44 percent.
Mr. Corzine did need a boost. According to a Nov. 1 poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP), 57 percent of New Jersey voters had an unfavorable opinion of the governor while only 34 percent viewed him favorably. But Mr. Obama's visits to inject enthusiasm into the Garden State's Democratic base backfired by stirring Republican support for Mr. Christie. An Oct. 13 PPP survey showed Mr. Christie with a razor-thin lead of 40 percent to 39 percent. After some Obama face time, a Nov. 1 poll by the same firm put Mr. Christie up 6 points, 47 percent to 41 percent.
Speaking at Camden, N.J., on Nov. 1, Mr. Obama said the financial crisis affecting New Jersey and the rest of the country came about because of "the same sort of trickle-down economics that the other guy's [Mr. Christie's] party has been peddling for years." The president continued: "But don't stand there and say, 'How come you're not holding the mop the right way? How come you're not mopping fast enough? Why are you using a socialist mop?' "
Mr. Christie's victory shows that even the people of New Jersey - a solidly blue state that went 57 percent for Mr. Obama in 2008 - have a problem with the Democrats' use of a "socialist mop" to try to clean things up.
As with his failed pitch to bring the Olympics to Chicago, Mr. Obama invested himself in the outcome of the New Jersey race. Again, the president's efforts fell flat. The Corzine defeat represents a serious loss of face for Mr. Obama at a time when he needs all the political capital he can muster to push government health care and other liberal initiatives through an increasingly reluctant Congress.
Like the Republican Party's sweep in Virginia on the same day, there can be no doubt that the Republican victory in New Jersey was a strong referendum against Obama administration policies.