Andrew argues that the races today are not about Obama. Who said they were? They're about Democrats and Republicans. They're about whose base is more energized.
If two states with Democratic governors lose them, that signals that the Republicans can move motivated bodies to the polls . . . and while voters may be saying they like Obama as much as ever, they're also saying that they think their taxes are too high and government spending is out of control, issues that polled way higher than "Obama issues" like health care.
All of this makes it tempting to tack right.
A quick survey of the print and web punditospheres reveals Democrats chin-pulling about the mixed message of last night's events, or wanly saying that this wasn't a referendum on Obama....It's kind of a problem that this election wasn't a referendum on Obama, or more importantly, on Bush. Obama's coattails are supposed to give them the spine they need to enact sweeping change. The bad news of last night wasn't that they lost the New Jersey governorship. It's that the era of running against George Bush, or for Barack Obama, is over. They just lost the two best campaign planks they've had in decades.
It's about winning and losing for McArdle, not about finding appropriate people to run the country. Public "proof" that your tribe is superior to other tribes fills authoritarians with enormous satisfaction and self-confidence. It never makes up for the emptiness inside but they're compelled to crave acceptance and unconditional love, and they take what they can get.
Why dwell on psychological motives for little bits of spite and hopeful thinking? Because it's easy to manipulate an authoritarian and they are being manipulated. There is a pattern to these events that needs to be traced back to its source.