Tuesday's elections - particularly the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey that the Democrats won - are being portrayed in much of the media as an embarrassing defeat for President Bush and a harbinger of worse things to come for the GOP in next year's midterm elections.
Democrats are rubbing their hands in gleeful anticipation of taking back control of Congress for the first time in 12 years. Well, of course it might happen. Anything might happen between this November and next.
Yet whatever happens, it's unlikely that Tuesday's elections will have anything to do with it. History shows that off-year elections are poor predictors of what will happen in election years.
Democrats can take bows that their men - Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine in Virginia and U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine in New Jersey - got voters' green light to take over the governors' mansions. Perhaps President Bush's low poll ratings mattered only to this extent - his last-minute appearance at a GOP rally in Virginia, a red state, failed to gin up enough Republican votes to pull his man across the finish line first.
But in a way, this was bad news for Democrats. Tuesday's results don't show they've become more popular with the public or picked up new voters. What it showed, according to the Associated Press and other analysts, is that voters who usually vote Republican stayed at home, or at work.
In any event, they didn't go to the polls. It's natural they were discouraged, given all the troubles the GOP-controlled Congress and White House have had to deal with lately - hurricanes, gas prices, indictments, leadership investigations, Harriet Miers, soaring fuel prices and, of course, the war in Iraq.
But this also means the GOP has a year to clean things up, improve conditions and get their voters motivated again. In short, it's possible Republicans can keep their congressional majority intact next year if they can get control of events instead of being controlled by them.
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