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Monday, November 02, 2009

Obama's Democrats face defeat on three fronts

WASHINGTON: Defeat in governors' races in Virginia and New Jersey and a contest for a vacant House of Representatives seat in New York would deliver a major setback to President Barack Obama.

A rejection of Democrats in all three contests, to be held today, would be embarrassing for Mr Obama because he has invested a large amount of time campaigning extensively in the two governor races. The events come almost a year to the day since Mr Obama's win.

Mr Obama took Air Force One to New Jersey on Sunday to appear at a rally for the embattled incumbent Governor, Jon Corzine, a former Wall Street executive who has poured an estimated $US30 million ($33.1 million) of his own fortune into the fight.

Polls indicate that Mr Corzine is running neck and neck with his Republican challenger, Chris Christie. A Republican has not won a statewide election in 12 years in New Jersey.

In Virginia, Bob McDonnell, the Republican candidate, is holding a double-digit lead over Creigh Deeds, the Democrat. Mr Obama won Virginia last year and helped register so many new Democratic voters that the party hoped it could hold on to the state for a decade or more.

Some Republicans are also backing Doug Hoffman, a hardliner running under the Conservative Party banner, in New York's 23rd District.

Once in Congress, he would take the Republican whip, and he has now been embraced by the party establishment.

In the aftermath of his inauguration in January, Mr Obama's approval rating soared to 70 per cent. Early on, he tested Americans' faith by diving headlong into controversial programs to rescue the economy, including bailing out sinking US car manufacturers and unveiling a $US787 billion stimulus plan.

In July, his popularity dipped below that of predecessor George W. Bush in the same period of his first term.

Since mid-October, it has hovered just above 50 per cent, a ''significant drop'' from his earlier numbers, according to Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll.

''In general, this puts Obama's current ratings slightly below average for all US presidents since World War II,'' he said.

A year after declaring that ''change has come to America'' in Chicago's Grant Park, Mr Obama has begun peppering his speeches with phrases like ''change is hard'', ''change isn't supposed to be easy'' and ''change doesn't happen overnight''.

Democrats are cautioning against reading too much into the results, saying that newly elected parties often suffer a backlash in elections one year into their term.

Republicans hope that economic discontent, which could become even more acute should unemployment top 10 per cent, and an Obama defeat on health care, could lead to large gains in next year's midterm congressional elections.
Telegraph, London;Agence France-Presse

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