Republican Gov. Chris Christie is cruising toward a historical win in uber-blue New Jersey tonight, but in tonight’s other, less certain gubernatorial race down in Virginia, lifelong Democratic fundraiser and “businessman” Terry McAuliffe is well-positioned to make some history of his own in the opposite direction: For three decades, Virginia’s one-term-limited governors have been elected from the party not sitting in the White House, but with an average lead of almost seven points going into this morning, it’s entirely possible that Virginia’s changing demographics and purplish new reality have killed the reliability of that pattern dead.
All of those years of Democratic fundraising weren’t for nothing, of course, and Team Terry has enjoyed a massive cash advantage throughout the race and used it to pummel Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as a crazy-eyed social conservative in ad after ad after ad. Camp Cuccinelli, meanwhile, has lately turned to nurturing a full-force Republicans turnout; Virginia has a typically Republican lean in off-year elections, so that could be another possibly disrupted pattern to look for once all the dust has settled. Looking at the down-ticket races, especially Attorney General, could help to shed some light on whether the results will be all about the characteristics of McAuliffe v. Cuccinelli, or indicative of some deeper demographic shifts.
One of the big takeaways from the Old Dominion tonight will be the effect of the Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis on the race; he’s been polling around a surprisingly solid 9 percent or so, according to the RCP average, and there has been plenty of contention about whether he is pulling away votes from McAuliffe and Cuccinelli equally or primarily harming Cuccinelli’s chances. How many people actually end up voting for Sarvis when push comes to shove is tough to predict, but for any of those potential Sarvis voters that might have been on the fence about it, this may have come as a rather unwelcome nugget of news this morning (or not, as the case may be). Via The Blaze:
A major Democratic Party benefactor and Obama campaign bundler helped pay for professional petition circulators responsible for getting Virginia Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert C. Sarvis on the ballot — a move that could split conservative votes in a tight race.
Campaign finance records show the Libertarian Booster PAC has made the largest independent contribution to Sarvis’ campaign, helping to pay for professional petition circulators who collected signatures necessary to get Sarvis’ name on Tuesday’s statewide ballot.
Austin, Texas, software billionaire Joe Liemandt is the Libertarian Booster PAC’s major benefactor. He’s also a top bundler for President Barack Obama.
Another big factor, as I mentioned above, are Virginia’s shifting demographics. Sean Trende explains:
We’ve talked a lot about demographics this year, but we’re finally going to get some good data. We’re getting exit polls in the races, as we did in 2009, and it couldn’t be more timely. One of the big question marks for Democrats going forward is whether Obama’s turnout among minority voters is transferable, or whether it is an Obama-specific phenomenon.
Gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe has invested scads of money trying to replicate the Obama turnout patterns. We should probably expect a bounce-back in Democratic groups from 2009, simply because that environment was so overwhelmingly lousy for Democrats (if we don’t, it’s a big problem for the party). But if the breakdowns look like 2012 or 2008, it’s a pretty good sign for Democrats.
Virginia’s polls close at 7 PM Eastern, and Virginia’s official election page as well as HuffPo‘s live results are both good places to watch the precinct reports start to stream in. Rural Virginia counties tend to get their vote counts in sooner, so the early stages of reporting might be a little misleading (you’ll recall that things looked that way in the Romney episode of yesteryear, as David Jarman points out), and I’ll be keeping an eye on things with updates below.
Update: Both Obama and Biden took some time to stump for McAuliffe over the past couple of days, and both largely avoided the subject of ObamaCare while President Obama really hammered the government shutdown as the major issue du jour. Suffice it to say that O probably wouldn’t have won McAuliffe any votes he didn’t already have by mentioning that “glitchy” living nightmare:
— Bret Baier (@BretBaier) November 5, 2013
Update: And here come more exit polls:
Results in Virginia: TOO CLOSE TO CALL. Preliminary CNN Exit Polls: McAulliffe 50%, Cuccinelli 43%, Sarvis 7% #CNN
— Sam Feist (@SamFeistCNN) November 6, 2013
20% of VA electorate said abortion was most important issue in their vote. McAuliffe winning 2-1 among that group.
— The Fix (@TheFix) November 6, 2013
Gender politics: Non-married women in #VAGov race go for McAuliffe 70% to 22%. Married men and married women both at 45-48 for Cuccinelli
— Betsy Fischer Martin (@BetsyNBC) November 6, 2013
NBC: VA GOV race is now “too close to call.”
— Domenico Montanaro (@DomenicoNBC) November 6, 2013
New weighted CNN exits have it at 47% McAuliffe – 45% Cooch. May be closer than expected.
— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) November 6, 2013
Update: Sean Trende has been filtering the incoming results through his model and chronicling the evolution thereof on his Twitter feed; things started out looking fairly favorable for Cuccinelli, but sounds like it’s getting tighter:
OK, as NoVa coming in, we’ve closed a bit. 51% projected for KC. I’d guess TMac by 3 points or so, but fluid.
— Sean Trende (@SeanTrende) November 6, 2013
Update: The Associated Press is calling the lieutenant governor’s race for the Democrat, Ralph Northam:
Democratic state Sen. Ralph Northam defeated Republican E.W. Jackson in a race sharply defined by social issues.
Northam easily beat Jackson on Tuesday following a campaign that centered on Northam’s defense of abortion rights and Jackson’s Christian-based anti-abortion platform. Jackson also opposes gay marriage, while Northam supports it.
The winner succeeds Republican Bill Bolling. A Democrat hasn’t occupied the office since U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine was lieutenant governor in 2006.
Update: I must say, I would have estimated that somebody would have called this thing by now, but the counts are still going, and it’s definitely going to be quite a bit closer than many of the polls were predicting; NBC is still saying the race is “too close to call,” but the latest numbers are still looking like they’re in McAuliffe’s favor:
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) November 6, 2013
Model now shows TMac with 50.3 percent of two-party vote; this includes current *margins*, so if margin in, say Fairfax expands, lead will 2
— Sean Trende (@SeanTrende) November 6, 2013
Update: Fox News is calling it, ya’ll:
Democrat Terry McAuliffe is projected to win the Virginia gubernatorial race, defeating Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli in a surprisingly close victory.
Fox News projected McAuliffe as the winner Tuesday night.
Update: Wow, this race looks like it’s going to be way closer than the polls were generally predicting; with 92 percent of precincts reporting, we’re looking at only a 47 – 46 split between McAuliffe and Cuccinelli, with Sarvis at 7 percent.
Update: I would merely point out that McAuliffe outraised Cuccinelli by something like $16 million, a lot of it from bigger donors. I’m sure we can rely on hearing the Democrats’ usual outraged cries about the lamentable influence of big, outside money in politics any time now. …Yep, any time now.