Michael Barone

In an August Washington Examiner column, I argued that this year's governor elections in New Jersey and Virginia would have little precedential significance, unlike some other off-year elections in those states.

Boiled down, my argument was that in New Jersey you had a governor who could not lose and in Virginia you had two governor candidates who could not win.

Now the results are in, and my predictions were not far off. Republican Chris Christie won 60 percent to 38 percent in heavily Democratic New Jersey.

In Virginia, the state closest to the national average in the last two presidential elections, neither Democrat Terry McAuliffe nor Republican Ken Cuccinelli won 50 percent of the vote. McAuliffe, far ahead in the polls for months, eked out a 48 percent to 45 percent victory.

So, these contests are of limited precedential value. But they do provide some interesting lessons for both parties.

Lesson 1 for Democrats: Obamacare hurts. Two days before Halloween, McAuliffe was leading 47 percent to 37 percent in the Real Clear Politics average of polls. In seven days, his margin melted from 10 percentage points to 2.5 points.

The big news during that period was the rocky Obamacare rollout and stories revealing that Barack Obama's repeated statements that people could keep their insurance or their doctor were either lies or (as many Democrats concede) misleading.

The exit polls showed that 46 percent of Virginia voters favor Obamacare and 52 percent oppose it. In a state Obama carried twice.

Lesson 1 for Republicans: Provocativeness hurts. Cuccinelli's positions on abortion and same-sex marriage are not much different from Christie's or Virginia Republican incumbent Bob McDonnell's. But his tone was, and he lost single women by 42 percentage points.

Lesson 2 for Democrats: Your youth vote is evaporating. McAuliffe carried 18- to 29-year-old voters by only 45 percent to 40 percent; Christie lost them by only 51 percent to 49 percent. Those were in states where Obama in 2008 carried young voters 60-39 percent and 67-31 percent. They may be discovering that Obamacare raises their health insurance premiums enormously.

Lesson 2 for Republicans: Obama can still energize some Democratic base groups. Democrats got high turnout in Virginia from blacks and young singles -- in contrast to 2009. Republicans can't count on these voters staying home.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM