November 9, 2005
Last Night's Results

It's always dangerous to read national sentiments in local election results, especially when the balloting is as scattered and sparse as it was yesterday. But a few things seem obvious. Negative campaigning lost its punch. And George Bush's political capital turned into a deficit.

The election of Jon Corzine as governor of New Jersey was no surprise, but the size of his victory was impressive, considering the battering Mr. Corzine had taken in a campaign that by the end seemed to revolve around the senator's failed marriage. Either the New Jersey electorate, which has been through way more than its share of sexual drama in recent years, is simply numb, or it was turned off by the negativity of the campaign. And in Virginia, the Republican, Jerry Kilgore, failed to gain traction with ads in which the father of a murder victim claimed that the Democrat, Timothy Kaine, would have opposed the death penalty for Hitler.

President Bush made a much-publicized last-minute campaign stop in Virginia to stump for Mr. Kilgore, but the effort backfired, or at least failed to make a dent. Everyone from political consultants to leaders of nations in the remote corners of Asia and Africa will be reading bad omens for the Republicans in what happened after Mr. Bush left.

The current president followed his father's political career attentively, and drew the lesson that whenever the first President George Bush had problems at the polls, they were caused by a failure to pay sufficient attention to Republican conservatives, particularly the cultural right. That certainly wasn't the problem in Virginia, where the Republican candidate ran a hard-right campaign, harping on Mr. Kaine as a liberal on hot-button issues like capital punishment and immigration.

Democrats tried to tie their opponents to the White House, and the only place where that seemed to fail to have a negative impact was New York City. When Republican success is limited to as thin a party reed as Michael Bloomberg, the Bush administration has a lot to worry about.