Rich Galen

Chris Christie won in New Jersey; Ken Cuccinelli lost in Virginia. Whatever can we make of that?

I was in a wonderfully interesting meeting yesterday with a man named Brian Loughnane who is the Federal Director of the Liberal Party of Australia. Under the odd-to-our-ears naming conventions, the Liberal Party of Australia is the center-right party and currently controls the government under Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

In the course of our conversation at the International Republican Institute offices in downtown DC, we got into a discussion of Tuesday's election results. I said I could describe the results in two words:

Candidates matter.

In New Jersey, Governor Christie cruised to an easy re-election because he is a good candidate, is seen as having been a good Governor, and has the trust of New Jersey residents to be a good steward of the Statehouse for another four years - assuming he hasn't moved into the White House before then.

In Virginia, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli lost to Terry McAuliffe by about three percentage points largely because of his (Cuccinelli's) hard line on social issues: abortion, climate change, same-sex marriage, etc. that McAuliffe drove home especially in DC suburbs known as Northern Virginia - Fairfax and Arlington counties along with Alexandria City.

Exit polls are useful not so that we know at the top of every hour which races to call even though only a handful of precincts have been counted. They are useful to determine why the people who came out to vote, voted the way they did.

For instance, Gov. Christie got nearly 61 percent of the vote in a very blue state in spite of the fav/unfav of the GOP in New Jersey: 39% favorable - 57% unfavorable. And don't tell me Christy didn't run as a Republican. Even in New Jersey they know the difference between an "R" and a "D" on the ballot.

So, how did he run up such a huge margin? First of all his opponent was very weak and all but unknown even down the stretch. Always a good thing for the incumbent. But in the exit poll on the question: "How is Christie handling the economy?" the response was 63% approve - 35% disapprove. An almost 30 percentage point advantage.

A more local issue, how Christie handled Hurricane Sandy voters gave Christy the nod 85 percent approve, 14 percent disapprove.

Meanwhile, back in the Old Dominion, asked what were the most important issues, respondents put abortion fourth among four choices behind (in order) the economy, health care, and transportation.

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at