1. The White House has trouble melding its approach to governing, and standards of transparency and brand of being above politics, with a strong-arming White House political operation willing and capable of leading the Democratic party to victory.
2. Barack Obama's political coalition is not invincible and it is not perpetual. The Obama election didn't changed the fundamental political dynamics of off-year elections.
3. The White House's time horizons are longer than and different than the time horizons of House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates. It was more important for, say, Creigh Deeds, to get a health care bill passed by August than it was for President Obama. Obama's building a strong re-election coalition in 2012, but it's going to be frustrating for Democrats in the short term. Obama's approval rating in New Jersey was 57%.
4. The traditional, nonthreatening Republican economic message -- lower taxes, less spending, more disciplined government -- resonates better with independents than the Democratic message -- we need to spend our way out of the recession.
5. Deep recessions are deadly for governors, who must balance their budgets by cutting spending deeply or raising taxes.
6. It's very hard for Democrats to simultaneously turn out the Obama Coalition (younger, more liberal, more minority voters) and suburban independents (particularly older, particularly men).
7. Jon Corzine had record low approval ratings and very high disapproval ratings.
8. Chris Christie's anti-corruption reputation and property tax pledges worked.
9. Creigh Deeds happened to be a Democrat in a state that bordered the District of Columbia. In July and August, when residents of the DC media market were saturated with an unflattering view of disputatious partisan Democratic infighting, with reports of bailouts and trillion dollar deficits, Deeds's numbers among independents in this area -- and pretty much only this area -- tanked. He never recovered.
10. Since 1985, Virginia and New Jersey have always voted against the party in power in Washington in their sequential off-year elections.
11. Virginia's mid-summer budget crisis hurt Democrats.