Republicans are saying that Tuesday's election results, especially in Virginia, where Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell crushed Democrat Creigh Deeds, are a referendum on the Obama agenda. It is true that McDonnell won by 18 percent in a state that Obama last year won by seven-- a twenty-five point swing. They claim that voters wanted to 'send a message' to Washington on health care. And it is true that Obama campaigned for Deeds in the Hampton Roads area of southeastern Virginia only last week.
However, a closer look at the numbers suggests otherwise. To begin with, start with the exit polls of the race.
To begin with, Deeds only lost the Hampton Roads area by 54-45%. This is signficantly better relative to Obama last year (who won it by a similar margin) than he did anywhere else in the state. So if anything, it appears that the Obama appearance may have helped Deeds hold his margin of loss in the region down, because he lost more voters in other parts of the state.
Furthermore, buried down towards the bottom is a question about what the primary issue was that voters were voting on. A quarter answered it was health care. And among those who did, Deeds WON by 51-49%. Keep in mind this is a candidate who was losing big, still narrowly winning among voters who are concered about health care (McDonnell's voters incidentally cited the economy and taxes as their biggest issues.) So if anything, this seems to suggest support for the Obama agenda on health care, certainly not opposition!
There is no question that Creigh Deeds ran a very poor campaign, attempting to focus on Bob McDonnell's 20 year old master's thesis while McDonnell was talking about jobs. However there is another point to be made here: Deeds tried to run as a 'moderate' and separate himself from the Obama agenda even as he was asking for the President's support. Clearly that strategy backfired since he did not win very many votes from conservatives but the electorate that showed up included a majority of voters who had voted for John McCain last year-- in other words a lot of Obama voters decided not to vote rather than vote for a conservative Democrat like Creigh Deeds.
Nevertheless the exit poll results show clearly that if the mainstream media did more than scratch the surface they'd see that if anything the results suggest support for, not opposition to, the Obama health care plan.
Keep in mind too that Bill Owens, who won in NY-23, pledged during the campaign to vote for the health care bill now before the house (and he is being sworn in today, so he will have a chance to do that too.) So that issue was front and center during the New York campaign, and if the district voters really wanted to stop health care reform they could have voted for Doug Hoffman.