Some reflections on the Virginia and New Jersey elections

Reuters

Virginia Democratic governor-elect Terry McAuliffe speaks at his election night victory rally in Tyson's Corner, Va., Nov. 5, 2013. McAuliffe defeated Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli in the governor's election in Virginia.

Article Highlights

  • Exit polls showed Virginia voters opposed rather than favored Obamacare by a 53-45% margin

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  • Exit polling showed 47% of Va voters blamed Republicans for the shutdown, 46% said Obama

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  • In Virginia, Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis got 15% of the vote among 18-to-29-year-olds

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1. The Obamacare rollout fiasco and Obama's lies hurt Democrats.

You only have to look at Democrat Terry McAuliffe's narrow 48 percent to 46 percent margin in Virginia to see that. McAuliffe outspent Republican Ken Cuccinelli by a wide margin (as much as 10-to-1, some bloggers suggested) and was leading 46 percent to 37 percent in the last days of October in the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls on Oct. 31. In Virginia, the state that voted closest to the national average in the last two presidential elections, McAuliffe ended up with 48 percent, 3 percentage points behind Barack Obama's 2012 percentage of the state, while Cuccinelli's 46 percent was just 1 percentage point behind Mitt Romney's showing.

Did Obamacare hurt? Well, the exit poll showed Virginia voters opposed rather than favored it by a 53 percent to 45 percent margin.

In contrast:

2. The government shutdown didn’t much hurt Republicans.

Northern Virginia was perhaps more impacted by the shutdown than any other part of the country. Yet when the exit poll asked who was more to blame, 47 percent of voters said Republicans in Congress and 46 percent said Obama. Considering that individuals almost always poll better than groups of people—particularly Republicans (or, for that matter, Democrats) in Congress, this is a devastating result for Obama.

It reminds me of the story of the Teamsters Union business agent who was in the hospital and received a bouquet of flowers. The card read, “The executive board wishes you a speedy recovery by a vote of 9 to 6.” However, in this case, the margin was narrower.

3. Millennials are souring on Democrats.

The Virginia exit poll showed voters ages 18 to 29 favoring McAuliffe over Cuccinelli by a 45 percent to 40 percent margin. The Rock the Vote folks sent out an email crowing about this, but put in context, it’s a dismal result.

The 30-to-44-year-olds were much more strongly for McAuliffe (56 percent to 37 percent), providing some evidence for Guardian blogger Harry Enten's analysis showing that young people just entering the electorate are less liberal than those who did so in 2008. In comparison, the 2012 presidential exit poll showed Obama leading Romney 61 percent to 36 percent among that age group in Virginia — statistically indistinguishable from Obama's 60 percent to 37 percent margin among 18-to-29-year-olds nationally, which was down from 66 percent to 32 percent in 2008.

Moreover, in New Jersey, the exit poll showed Republican Chris Christie losing 18-to-29-year-olds to Democrat Barbara Buono by only 51 percent to 49 percent. Christie was up 13 percent among this age group compared with his 2009 showing.

Similarly, in Virginia, McAuliffe was up only 1 percent over the 2009 showing of Democrat Creigh Deeds, who lost statewide 59 percent to 41 percent. One reason is that the not-very-libertarian Libertarian Party candidate Robert Sarvis got 15 percent of the vote among the 18-to-29-year-olds.

True, that indicates that the provocatively culturally conservative Cuccinelli did not do well with this generation. But it also suggests that McAuliffe's last-minute campaigners Hillary Clinton (born 1947), Bill Clinton (born 1946) and (the not very technologically savvy) Obama (born 1961) don't necessarily strike a resonant chord with the younger segment of Millennials (born between 1984 and 1995).

4. Hispanics and Asians didn't rush out for Democrats.

The New Jersey exit poll showed Christie carrying Hispanics 51 percent to 45 percent and losing heavily Hispanic (and historically hugely Democratic) Hudson County by only 55 percent to 44 percent. This is a great achievement that national Republicans need to study.

In addition, Christie carried both Middlesex County (58 percent to 41 percent) and Mercer County (52 percent to 46 percent), historically very (machine) Democratic counties up and down the U.S. Route 1 corridor from Trenton to Perth Amboy. Aside from California, Hawaii and Queens, this is the most heavily Asian, and particularly Indian-American, part of the United States; many recent immigrants work in New Jersey’s pharmaceuticals and high-tech firms, and others start small businesses of their own. Christie carried Middlesex County and Edison Township (with the highest Indian-born percentage in the United States) in 2009 and apparently did even better this time.

5. Private-sector unions.

A largely unreported part of Christie’s policy and political success in New Jersey has been his alliance with Democrats with private-sector union backgrounds, like state Senate President Stephen Sweeney of Gloucester County (which Christie carried 64 percent to 34 percent) and longtime political panjandrum George Norcross of Camden County (which Christie carried 55 percent to 43 percent).

They worked with him to rein in the outsized benefits and privileges of greedy and self-righteous public-sector unions in the state on the sensible theory that their hard-pressed members were paying for benefits far more lavish than they were getting themselves.

This alliance was one reason Christie did not sweep in Republican legislative majorities, even though Republican candidates received about 100,000 more votes than Democratic candidates in contests for the state Senate. But Christie seems likely to continue to have working bipartisan majorities on many issues.

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