Big Wins For Democrats

New Jersey Governor-elect Jon Corzine (R) hugs his son, Jeffrey, as confetti falls during his victory celebration November 8, 2005 in East Brunswick, New Jersey. With over 90 percent of precincts counted, Corzine defeated Republican Doug Forrester with 54 percent of the votes. Getty Images/Stephen Chernin

Democrats scored key victories Tuesday from New Jersey to California, sinking the candidate who President Bush campaigned with on election eve in the Virginia governor's race. Voters also rejected Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's efforts to limit the power of California's Democratic leaders.

Democratic Sen. Jon Corzine easily won the New Jersey governor's seat after an expensive mudslinging campaign, trouncing Republican Doug Forrester by 10 percentage points. Polls in the last week had forecast a much closer race.

Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine won a solid victory in GOP-leaning Virginia, beating Republican Jerry Kilgore by more than 5 percentage points. Democrats crowed that Mr. Bush's election-eve rally for the former state attorney general only spurred more Kaine supporters to the polls.

In California, Schwarzenegger failed in his push to rein in the Democrat-controlled Assembly. All four of his ballot measures flopped: attempts to limit the political use of union dues; cap state spending, remove legislators' redistricting powers, and make teachers work five years instead of two to pass probation.

Elsewhere, Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on gay marriage, Maine voted to preserve the state's new gay-rights law, and GOP Mayor Michael Bloomberg easily clinched a second term in heavily Democratic New York.

The White House brushed off the Democratic gubernatorial wins as races "decided on state and local issues," reports CBS News Correspondent Peter Maer. Spokesman Scott McClellan contends Kaine's Virginia victory shows that, "nationally Democrats are out of touch" because Kaine "ran on a conservative platform."

As for New Jersey, McClellan said the state has "leaned Democratic for a number of years." The spokesman said President Bush congratulates the winners but he was unable to say if Mr. Bush had called them.

Democrats seized on their victories, one party leader claiming they were a shot in the arm for Democratic chances to win control of Congress in 2006.

How worried should the Republicans be?

"Very worried," Larry Sabato the director of politics at the University of Virginia, told CBS News' The Early Show. "They really are in danger of losing a substantial number of seats in Congress and, more importantly, key governorships in 2006."

The Republican candidate in Virginia was joined by the president at a rally on Monday. Was the president a drag on the ticket in a red state which Mr. Bush won by nine points last year?

"Absolutely," said Sabato. "The Republican campaign in Virginia will tell you that, at least privately. The president chose to nationalize that election by showing up on election eve. You don't want to do that unless you want to be associated with the results. I think they thought genuinely Bush could pull him across the race. It wasn't close. The result: Bush has to take the spanking."

Other Republicans warned against reading too much into two governorships that started the day in Democratic hands and ended that way. Virginia Gov. Mark Warner was barred by law from seeking a second term, and New Jersey acting Gov. Richard J. Codey opted not to run.

But the travails of the Bush administration can't be discounted, said Norm Ornstein at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, listing opposition to the Iraq war, the mishandled response to Hurricane Katrina, and the indictment of a top White House aide in the CIA leak investigation. "It's been an awful time for Republicans."
  • Gina Pace

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