The elections yesterday served as sort of a litmus test of what we could expect in upcoming elections in 2014 and 2016. The two biggest elections on the national stage were the governors races in Virginia and New Jersey. In their own ways they are supposed to represent something grand about the Republican party and conservatism. You can decide whether or not that should be the case, but here's my read on things.
In New Jersey, Chris Christie won handily with over 60% of the vote. Many people see this as the start of his 2016 presidential campaign. I can understand why some believe that to be the case. It's clear that Christie has the charisma to attract voters, many of which are the voters the GOP desperately seeks: Independents, women, Hispanics. Where Christie fails as a potential GOP candidate is that many conservatives believe he isn't conservative enough to really energize the base. He is not a part of the grassroots, Tea Party base that is energized by people who are willing to fight the hard battles for conservative values. Turning out voters who already identify with the right in crucial. It's hard to see how Christie could straddle the grassroots conservative right and those in the middle who may lean left without compromising on key issues. When it comes to Chris Christie and his potential 2016 run for president, Ron Fournier has a piece today: 7 Ways Clinton and Christie Could Bungle 2016. He is in no way anointed as the GOP nominee, and this may leave room for a dark horse to emerge, as Fournier points out.
The Virginia governors race is even more fascinating. Unfortunately Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli lost, but it wasn't a drubbing. Democrat Terry McAuliffe should have run away with the race, but instead barely managed to eek out the win. The big question to be answered is: what happened? How did a slam dunk for the Democrats turn into a close call? The answer may lie with Obamacare. Fox News exit polling shows that 53% of voters were opposed to Obamacare, compared to 46% who supported it. Cuccinelli is an important figure in the fight against Obamacare at the state level, and the weeks leading up to the election were filled with the stories of website failures, people losing their insurance and the administration lying to us about the true nature of Obamacare. Cuccinelli himself said that this race came down the the wire because of Obamacare.
But the unfortunate fact is that he still lost. This has resulted in the left asserting two things: the Tea Party is dead and Obamacare is not a winning issue.
What's clear is that the attempt to pigeonhole the Tea Party as radical or extremist is winning, but not necessarily for the reason you may think. Liberals have absolutely done their due diligence in branding it as such, but many Republicans have had their hand in it as well. Many people will walk away from these elections with the sense that conservatives shouldn't put up a fight for their values. I think this would be a tragic mistake for this nation.