State Races Test Obama Authority

Republicans are hoping to finish out Tuesday's elections by picking up governor's seats in both Virginia and New Jersey, possibly demonstrating a national mood far less favorable to Obama and the Democrats than during last year's election. In Virginia, the Republican candidate, Bob McDonnell, heads into the election with a double-digit opinion-poll advantage over his Democratic rival, Creigh Deeds, while in New Jersey, Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine and Republican challenger Chris Christie are neck-and-neck. While the likely Republican win in Virginia reflects a generally Republican state—Obama is the only Democratic presidential nominee to win the state since 1964—the New Jersey race could be a setback for Democrats, who tend to do well in the liberal state. Obama has campaigned extensively for Corzine in the state the president won by 16 points last year, but polls show the candidates in a dead heat, with independent Chris Daggett consistently pulling about 10%. In a smaller race that's nonetheless drawn national interest, Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman is squaring off against Democrat Bill Owens for the New York congressional seat left vacant by Republican John McHugh, appointed Secretary of the Army by President Obama. NY-23, usually a safe Republican seat, became the focus of nationwide attention when conservatives derided original Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava as too liberal; Scozzafava withdrew from the race this weekend, and, in an unusual twist, endorsed the Democrat.