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Off Year Elections and ESEA Renewal

By Alyson Klein — October 27, 2009 1 min read
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If you haven’t already, you should check out my colleague Erik Robelen’s story about education in this off-year election. He points out that the very tight races for governor in New Jersey and Virginia will help shed some light on how well the Democratic brand is faring, now that the party is in charge of practically everything and the economy is still slumping. The New Jersey race is close, according to these recent polls. And the GOP has an edge, according to this one from Virginia.

Although it might not seem so on the surface, those gubernatorial races may matter quite a bit in terms of the Obama administration’s education priorities. If Democrats Gov. Jon Corzine, of New Jersey, and state Sen. Creigh Deeds, of Virginia, lose badly, the election will be read by some as a rebuke of President Barack Obama.

And that may mean Democrats in Congress, who are worried about their own electoral futures, will be less likely to go along with some of Obama’s priorities (like, say, merit pay) that might anger folks who members of Congress will need to get re-elected (like teachers’ unions).

Bottom line: If Dems win in both states, it will likely be a lot easier for the Obama folks to sell their ideas on health care, student loans, and the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act to Congress. If not...maybe not.