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Obama’s first report card.

Recent polls indicate reasons to be very optimistic if you’re a Republican running for Governor in New Jersey or Virginia in the upcoming November ’09 elections.

The latest in New Jersey showed a 13 point lead for Christie over Corzine.

In Virginia, against the slate of three Dems, Bob McDonnell led by an average of 11 points.

Both of these would be big wins for these two states, but they mean even something bigger for the GOP, and the nation as a whole.

The political environment is set by expectations and perceptions. They mean everything.

Lately, the only discussions about these campaigns have been about their poll results, fundraising, and Terry McAuliffe’s affinity for yardsigns.

Republican talking heads are forgetting how important it is to set expectations.

Remember the Presidential debates of 2008? Before each we heard talk of the campaigns playing the expectations game. The spokesmen and surrogates would manipulate the media and set expectations for the opposing side. Then, in the debate post-mortem those same spokesmen and surrogates framed the opponent as failing to live up to the prescribed expectations. It’s a often-used tool that more likely than not, helps frame the debate in the media.

Well, Republicans need to start doing that in a larger scale for the VA and NJ gubernatorial races.

Why? Because it makes the VA and NJ Gov races Obama’s report card. If each of these races is defined as taking place in states historically or largely trending blue, then when Republicans win, the victories can be framed as the public’s reaction to Obama’s policies. In other words, “if Democrats are losing in what was once Democrat strongholds, it’s clear that the voters are sending a message to President Obama.”

How do we define these expectations? Virginia has been turning blue for years. Obama won it by 6 points. Republicans haven’t won the Governor’s office since 1997. Both Senators are Democrats.

New Jersey? New Jersey hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988. They haven’t had a Republican elected to the Senate since the 70s. And a Republican gubernatorial candidate hasn’t won there since 1997.

New Jersey and Virginia are blue states.

And the media will be more likely to define GOP victories in each as Republican wins in Obama states.

A win in each of those states sends a message not only to President Obama, but to the GOP as a whole and each and every voter.

What does it say to the GOP? We’re winning again. Obama can be beat. The voters are trending towards us and rejecting the President’s policies. 2010 is going to be a good year.

This benefits the GOP in two important ways, candidate recruitment and fundraising. Potential candidates are easier to recruit when they think they can win. And donors are more likely to give money when they think they are backing a winner.

What does it say to the average voter? The GOP is back. If Republicans are winning in states that always vote for Democrats, maybe it’s time to reconsider them. And most importantly, people simply like voting for a winner. They like momentum. And it’s a much bigger win if it’s claimed against Barack Obama than Jon Corzine.

Of course, we all know the Obama response…

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Third Base Politics is an Ohio-centric conservative blog that has been featured at Hot Air, National Review, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and others.

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