Christie won by 22 points after bad-mouthing the federal government shutdown, which these days makes him a moderate. Now some pundits are wondering out loud whether Christie is the 2016 front-runner.
In losing to oily Democrat Terry McAuliffe, Cuccinelli drove another nail in the tea party coffin.
I wouldn't declare Christie the GOP front-runner. As Ethics and Public Policy Center senior fellow Henry Olsen opined, Christie has a unique outsize appeal that works in New Jersey but will not necessarily "translate to the national stage."
But sometimes the conventional wisdom is right. Here are the lessons I take away from the voters' verdicts:
--The tea party strategy of bucking the party establishment is a loser.
Cuccinelli supporters are venting against the GOP establishment for not giving more money to their man when polls showed that McAuliffe's lead was dwindling because of the glitch-rich Obamacare rollout. "Knowing that Christie was going to win that race without their help, why would they not help Cuccinelli more?" Tea Party Express head Amy Kremer complained to The Washington Times.
She has a point, but she ignores the laws of cause and effect. In maneuvering the nomination process from a primary election to a convention, the Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote in a biting "none-of-the-above" endorsement, Cuccinelli engaged in an "expression of raw power (that) would have delighted sachems of Tammany Hall. Virginia does not welcome an in-your-face governor."
Tea partyers boast that the GOP cannot win without them. But guess what. They cannot win without the establishment, either.
--Successful candidates appeal to those outside their base.
During his acceptance speech, Christie boasted that he won because he campaigned outside the GOP base. He talked about the need to listen to voters -- a novel concept.
In his concession speech, Cuccinelli talked to dead people. "We fought for the principles that were first articulated for the whole world by Virginians," Cuccinelli told his supporters. He mentioned George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
"We're New Jersey," Christie said. "We fight," but for what's important.
Cuccinelli? He told his supporters, "We home-school."
--There is a right way and a wrong way to oppose abortion rights.