I know, I know...more polls already? Yes, actually. Like it or not, it's an election year, and gubernatorial battles in New Jersey and Virginia will present conservatives with two early opportunities to make a statement about President Obama's re-election. Recall that these two states set the table for the red wave of 2010 by electing Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell one year earlier -- and they'll have the chance to reprise their roles in 2013. Everyone has an opinion about Christie, but at the moment his position looks very robust, almost boringly so. Once the race heats up, things will probably tighten a bit (New Jersey is a deep blue state, after all) but the incumbent is the clear favorite. Which leaves us with Virginia, which should theoretically be the easier lift for the GOP. Bob McDonnell cruised to victory in the commonwealth in 2009, winning by 18 percentage points. He's governed the state exceptionally well, enjoying high approval ratings, and turning a biannual deficit into a sizable surplus without raising taxes. But Virginia law prohibits governors from serving consecutive terms, so voters are starting afresh with a new slate of candidates. Will Virginians continue their schizophrenic voting behavior (hard blue in 2008, hard red in 2009 and 2010, light blue in 2012) later this year? In addition to the national trends and optics, the match-up itself is rather intriguing. The Democrats are running former DNC chair and long-time Clinton ally Terry McAuliffe, while the GOP will send Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to bat. Cuccinelli is an aggressive and bright movement conservative who was one of the first AG's in the nation to challenge Obamacare in court. He's developed a decent grassroots following along the way; I'd bet that Righties in a giving mood will be more inclined to open their wallets for him than for Christie, whose coffers will be just fine. It's verrry early, but the head-to-head is a virtual dead heat (via Erika Johnsen):
Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli are running neck and neck early in the 2013 race for governor of Virginia, according to a poll today by Quinnipiac University. McAuliffe, the McLean-based former chairman of the Democratic National Committee turned green energy entrepreneur, draws 40 percent of voters surveyed to 39 percent for Cuccinelli, the firebrand conservative former state senator who was elected attorney general in 2009. Nearly one in five vogters [sic] are undecided. … The survey was conducted Jan. 4-7 of 1,134 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. The survey consisted of live interviewers calling voters on land lines and cell phones.
The obvious take-away from this survey is the huge number of undecideds, which isn't particularly surprising ten months out. If you think that Virginians may not be inclined to vote for a DNC party-line hack, think again. Also, if we learned anything from the 2012 outcome, if there's a poll with bad news for Republicans, it's probably accurate. But on the bright side, an off-year electorate is different than a presidential year, and Cuccinelli will likely tie himself to the well-regarded McDonnell administration. Given the national attention this race will receive, Democrats will throw everything they've got at Cuccinelli in the hopes of flipping the seat and tamping down conservative momentum and morale heading into 2014. The Washington Post, whose singular and bizarre obsession with Bob McDonnell's decades-old graduate thesis drove their coverage of the race four years ago, will again do its part to help defeat the conservative candidate. Cuccinelli's ideology and demeanor is more fiery than McDonnell's, so one can only imagine the pre-emptive fainting spells occurring in the WaPo newsroom already. In another weird 2009/2013 quirk, the people of Massachusetts may have another special election on the way to fill a vacant US Senate seat. And the Republican in the race might be named Scott Brown. Just ask him. Could we witness another one-two-three punch like we saw in 2009 and early 2010? That remains to be seen, although Bay State Democrats are apparently telling reporters that they're more worried about Brown running for governor. A little reverse psychology action, or do they mean it?