Parties look to understand messy McAuliffe victory

BY Terence Burlij  November 6, 2013 at 9:15 AM EDT

Terry McAuliffe supporters in Tysons Corner, Va., cheer after he is declared the winner of the governor’s race Tuesday night. Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe will become the next governor of Virginia, the coda to a campaign marked by nastiness from the start and following a less-than-comfortable victory Tuesday by fewer than 56,000 votes.

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And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie sailed to a second term, winning half of Latinos and an overwhelming majority of voters.

Is it possible to draw national conclusions, or predict the future direction of either party? The press will surely try, but the reasons McAuliffe barely defeated Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli — the tone of the race, the Affordable Care Act, a third-party candidate — have nothing to do with Christie’s resounding win that sets him up nicely for a possible 2016 bid for the White House.

McAuliffe has a much tougher road ahead. After multiple polls suggested he could claim a double-digit victory, the final result was McAuliffe at 47.9 percent to 45.5 percent for Cuccinelli.

In his victory speech, the Democrat pointedly said he would reach out to “every single Republican in the General Assembly” before he is sworn in. And there are more of them — the GOP may have captured enough seats to claim a super majority in the Virginia state house.

The Washington Post’s Antonio Olivo notes that a handful of races remain close, so “it remained unclear whether Democrats could gain extra committee assignments or the additional seats they need to prevent Republicans from overturning gubernatorial vetoes.”

And the Post’s Laura Vozzella and Ben Pershing write that McAuliffe, with no experience serving in state government, or in any elected office, must “overcome skepticism and a GOP-dominated House to effectively govern a state with more than 8 million residents.”

Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, barred by state law from seeking a second term, called in a statement for the state to come together.

Elections are long, tough, hard-fought affairs. But they have an end date. For the 2013 campaign, that date is today. Now, the signs, stickers and ads must be put away. In their place must come comity, cooperation and a commitment to working together, across party lines, to continue to improve the quality of life of all Virginians.

McDonnell noted he hopes Cuccinelli, a former state senator, will stay involved in public service.

“This battle is not over with this race,” Cuccinelli said in his concession speech, visibly choked with emotion.

Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis pulled 6.6 percent of the vote, far more than a closely watched 2005 contest that saw then-state Sen. Russ Potts, a moderate Republican, take just over 2 percent. The Sarvis result is the third best for a libertarian gubernatorial candidate in history, according to the University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics blog.

There will be a lot of discussion Wednesday about how McAuliffe nearly lost, but Democrats will emphasize that isn’t the point — they have reclaimed control of Virginia’s top two offices, with Democrat Ralph Northam elected to be lieutenant governor. They also will attempt to tie other Republicans to what they dubbed Cucinelli’s “Tea Party’s extremism.”

A new video from the DNC illustrates that point:

The Republicans, meanwhile, will need to do a little soul-searching. The Republican National Committee applauded its own ground game that boosted Cuccinelli and which could help them in future years, and said the GOP state House “will provide a much-needed check on McAuliffe’s plans for a reckless spending spree.”

Two-term Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who opted against challenging Cuccinelli for the nomination at a convention, issued a statement making clear he is worried about the direction of his party. He said that “this campaign was particularly difficult.”

“There are clear lessons in these losses for the Republican Party,” Bolling said. “Going forward, we need to have an open and honest conversation about the future of our party and determine what we must do to reconnect with a more diverse voter base whose support is critical to political success in Virginia.”

The anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List blamed Cuccinelli’s loss on a lack of resources, with president Marjorie Dannenfelser saying in a statement that the Republican was “woefully outspent” thanks to 5,600 spots on the abortion issue alone on Virginia airwaves.

“[T]his election also shows that it is imperative for pro-lifers to be on the offensive in 2014 against the distortions and extremism of the Left. The Democrat strategy for 2014 is set: demonize pro-life candidates and spend big on ‘war on women’ advertising,” she said. “Attacks on Cuccinelli were left unanswered, or else answered too late, and the message stuck. McAuliffe’s echo chamber was complete when the press corps failed to relay accurate information about each candidate’s actual positions on social issues.”

Politico’s James Hohmann notes that McAuliffe outraised his rival by $15 million, and groups like the Republican National Committee and the Chamber of Commerce invested far less in Cuccinelli than they gave to McDonnell in 2009.

Virginia officials expect to announce a recount in the close contest to replace Cuccinelli as attorney general. State Sens. Mark Obenshain and Mark Herring were separated by just 616 votes with 99 percent of precincts reporting.

In 2005, McDonnell won the attorney general’s race by just 323 votes. Virginia has not had a Democratic attorney general in two decades.

In New Jersey, Christie’s landslide made him the first Republican since George H.W. Bush in the 1988 presidential election to win more than 50 percent of the vote in the Garden State. In the end, he bested his Democratic rival, state Sen. Barbara Buono, by 22 points.

The governor told supporters at his victory rally Tuesday that the results should send a clear message to those watching from afar. “If we can do this in Trenton, New Jersey, maybe the folks in Washington should tune in their TVs right now, see how it’s done.”

Christie’s remarks offered an early preview of his sales pitch should he decide to enter the presidential stakes in 2016. “I know that tonight a dispirited America, angry with their dysfunctional government in Washington looks to New Jersey to say, is what I think happening really happening? Are people really coming together?”

The 1st Congressional District in Alabama, meanwhile, played host to a contest that reflected simmering tensions within the Republican Party. Former state Sen. Bradley Byrne, who had the backing of business groups including the Chamber of Commerce, prevailed in a GOP runoff against Dean Young, a Christian conservative backed by the tea party. Byrne will face Democratic candidate Burton LeFlore in a December special election to fill the seat vacated by former GOP Rep. Jo Bonner.

Mayoral front-runners Bill de Blasio and Mike Duggan notched easy victories in New York and Detroit, respectively, while Massachusetts state Rep. Martin Walsh edged out city councilor John Connolly to succeed Tom Menino as the next mayor of Boston.

President Barack Obama called McAuliffe, de Blasio and Walsh, according to a statement issued by White House press secretary Jay Carney late Tuesday night. The president “vowed to work with them in the months ahead to expand economic opportunity for middle class families in their communities.”

The NewsHour’s online team captured the victory speeches.

Watch McAuliffe’s speech here or below:

Watch Christie’s speech here or below:

THE TOXIC REVENGER

The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case with details fit for a supermarket tabloid, but consequences for the federal government’s enforcement of an international treaty.

Gwen Ifill spoke with Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal about the case, which involves a woman who used chemicals to attack her husband’s mistress.

Watch their conversation here or below:

On Wednesday, the justices will hear arguments in a case involving prayer at public meetings. The NewsHour will have full coverage of the issue.

LINE ITEMS

  • Illinois lawmakers approved a gay marriage bill Tuesday. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has said he intends to sign the measure, which would make the state the 15th in the country to extend the right to wed to same-sex couples.

  • Montana at-large Rep. Steve Daines, a Republican, will announce a bid for Senate this week in the race to replace retiring Sen. Max Baucus, a Democrat. The contest is getting crowded, with the former lieutenant governor also joining the field on the Democratic side.

  • Former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director James Lee Witt is running for Congress in Arkansas.

  • The National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee will spend money in primaries if that becomes necessary, officials told reporters Tuesday.

  • The Hill sees Sen. Ted Cruz casting a shadow over a House race in Texas.

  • Sens. Barbara Boxer and David Vitter on Tuesday named conferees for negotiations with the House over a water resources bill.

  • Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is facing another battle with prostate cancer.

  • Christie told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Mitt Romney apologized to him for leaks about the vice presidential vetting process.

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s delivered on David Letterman’s show the “Top Ten Things You Never Knew About the House of Representatives.”

  • Roll Call’s Meredith Shiner has a heartwarming obituary of “Mr. Ivey,” the man who served food to lawmakers for nearly 30 years.

  • Use your phone to tour the World War II Memorial.

  • The president and First Lady Michelle Obama surprised people touring the White House Tuesday. The tours were being restarted after an 8-month hiatus. Christina happened to be among those in the early tour group, and Mrs. Obama said she was pleased to reopen the “People’s House” to the public.

  • You can help name the newest panda cub at the National Zoo.

  • What kind of accent do you have? Take this quiz to find out.

NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

  • Jeffrey Brown looked at the push in the Senate to approve the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and spoke with Gregory Angelo of Log Cabin Republicans and Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council about the changing attitudes within the GOP on the issue of gay rights. Watch:
  • SeaTac, Wash. could soon be boosting their minimum wage for employees to $15 per hour. Paul Solman reported on the debate surrounding the nation’s latest living wage initiative, SeaTac’s Proposition 1.

  • Iconic Chicago chef Charlie Trotter died Tuesday at age 54. We’ve posted some video from our PBS partners.

  • The latest “Blank on Blank” stars the late Jerry Garcia.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

TOP TWEETS

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.

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