A carefully selected ‘referendum’

A CAREFULLY SELECTED ‘REFERENDUM’…. On “Meet the Press” yesterday, host David Gregory asked Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) a rather loaded question: “As you look at these races, governor’s races in New Jersey and Virginia, where the Democrats are in considerable trouble, what will it say about the Obama presidency, these results from these elections?” Cornyn replied:

“Well, I think the Virginia governor’s race particularly is going to be referendum on the policies that the American people have seen coming out of Washington these days.”

This isn’t altogether surprising rhetoric, but it is rather amusing. With a wide variety of elections in 2009, Cornyn has picked the one race Republicans are likely to win and decided that’s the one that counts as a “referendum.”

It wasn’t too terribly long ago when GOP leaders said the special election New York’s 20th congressional district would be a “referendum” on the Obama administration and congressional Democrats. When Scott Murphy won in March, Republicans decided it wasn’t really a “referendum” after all.

There was a special election in Illinois’s 5th congressional district in April, but a Democrat won so it couldn’t be a “referendum.” There was a special election in California’s 32nd congressional district in July, Dems won that one, too, so it doesn’t count as “referendum” either.

Next week, there will be a gubernatorial race in New Jersey, a gubernatorial race in Virginia, a mayoral race in NYC, and congressional special elections in California’s 10th and New York’s 23rd. In just about every instance, the races will be decided largely by state and local concerns.

But for John Cornyn, only one of all of these contests — the one where his favored candidate looks like a strong bet — will signal public dissatisfaction with what Americans “have seen coming out of Washington these days.” The other races won’t offer any significant insights into anything.

Good to know.