AS WIDELY expected, Democrat Terry McAuliffe has defeated Ken Cuccinelli in the race for Virginia governor. The huge double-digit margin lead that McAuliffe enjoyed until fairly recently closed, but not enough to rescue Cuccinelli’s campaign tonight.
McAuliffe, a long-time Democratic goodwrench and friends of the Clintons, can thank three forces that came to his defense. When this is all over, McAuliffe should send rhetorical bouquets to the people of northern Virginia, women voters ... and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.
Women voters took their revenge tonight on Cuccinelli and his role in efforts to curtail their reproductive rights in the commonwealth, by acting and speaking on these issues in lockstep with outgoing governor and bling magnet Bob McDonnell. For months now, polling has suggested that Virginia’s women would make their feelings known on Election Night, and that’s a big part of what just happened.
McAuliffe can also thank the nearly 200,000 federal workers who live in Virginia, a Metro ride away from their jobs in the nation’s capital — workers understandably angry about the 16-day government shutdown that forced them off the job, workers who in most cases haven’t received back pay for the days they missed.
And for that, the next governor of the commonwealth of Virginia can thank Ted Cruz, for his indispensable role in forcing the government shutdown and doing all he could to keep those federal workers idle and unpaid as long as he could. Weeks after the shutdown ended, Ted Cruz is the gift that keeps on giving.
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Centrist Republicans may well be engaging in a certain schadenfreude over Cuccinelli’s loss tonight. They’ve quietly hoped for awhile that something would get through to the Tea Party crowd and tell them, in no uncertain terms, that their reckless, burn-down-the-house style of politics wasn’t working.
The margin of victory here may not be enough to convince the Tea Party regulars that Cuccinelli’s defeat has anything to do with them. Since many of them can’t even be convinced that evolution is anything more than a progressive plot, we shouldn’t be surprised.
But a GOP loss is a loss is a loss, and one that breaks with historical precedent. McAuliffe’s win breaks a longstanding streak in which Virginians elected a governor of the party opposite that of the president every election since 1977 — suggesting that, this time, old (and frankly perverse) habits took a back seat to the situation, and the candidate, of the moment.
Image credit: McAuliffe: Scott Elmquist