There are many elections on tap today, but the ones most people will be watching are the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, and especially the combination of the two. In Virginia, long-time Democrat fund raiser, general-purpose fixer, and Clinton buddy Terry McAuliffe has held a 5-10% lead over Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli for months. Cuccinelli is a conservative firebrand who is appealing only to his base and whose hopes are based on getting large numbers of them to vote and praying that Democrats stay home. Unlike most general-election candidates, he has made no effort to reach out to independents and moderates. He is about as pure a tea party candidate as we have seen so far.
The race has been mud central. Nobody will win it, but somebody will lose it. If Cuccinelli loses, it will be the first time since 1973 that the party of the sitting President won the governor's race in Virginia, which is always the year after a presidential election. Because the tea party got its favorite candidate and history and current news (Obamacare) favors the Republicans, it will be hard to explain away a such a historic loss, especially against a candidate as weak as McAuliffe.
If Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) pulls off a landslide re-election win, as expected, he will be on his way to running for President in 2016. Only a heart attack could slow him down. His slogan in the primaries will be: "I can win in blue states, take that Ted Cruz." But let's wait until tomorrow before getting into this more.
While we are on the subject of New Jersey, it is worth mentioning that all 40 state Senate and all 80 state House seats are also on the ballot today. In Virginia, all 100 seats in the House of Delegates are up for grabs as well.
Are there lessons in these gubernatorial races for 2014 and 2016? Probably. The main one seems to be that a moderate Democrat, even one as flawed as McAuliffe, is able to hang onto his base while also getting a good chunk of the moderates and independents behind him. With the modern Republican party, that seems to be impossible. A Ted Cruz can win the base but not the moderates while a Chris Christie can win the moderates but the base hates him. Going forward, this is going to be a bigger problem for the Republicans than the Democrats.
It is hardly a secret that the Republican establishment, the business community in particular, is sick and tired of tea party candidates who breathe fire and then lose winnable general elections. It has been threatening to fight back, and a key initial test will be held today in AL-01, where there will be a runoff for the Republican nomination to run for the House seat vacated when Jo Bonner resigned to become vice chancellor of the University of Alabama. The race features former state senator Bradley Byrne, who is backed by the Chamber of Commerce, against tea party favorite Dean Young, a wealthy businessman. Polls show it could be close. If Young wins, it will be a serious hit for the Republican establishment. Either Republican is expected to coast to victory in the general election.
New York City's public advocate, unabashed liberal Bill de Blasio (D), is forecast to crush Rudy Giuliani's deputy mayor Joe Lhota (R) and put a Democrat back in Gracie Mansion for the first time in 20 years. In fact, it will be the first time in 20 years anybody has lived in the New York mayor's official residence. Rudy Giuliani didn't live there because he couldn't have his girlfriend (now wife #3) live there with him (private citizens are forbidden by law from living there). Billionaire Michael Bloomberg didn't live there either, in part because he was also living with his girlfriend (Diana Taylor), but also because the Mansion would be a step down from his home on the Upper East Side. De Blasio is actually married and has said he will live in Gracie Mansion should he win. De Blasio has a long list of things he wants to change about the city, all of them long on the liberal wish list.
Scott Stringer, another unabashed liberal, is running for comptroller and expected to win as well.
Several states and cities have important referendums on the ballot today. The working-class city of Sea-Tac, WA, where Seattle's airport is located, has a measure to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr, twice the federal level. New Jersey voters will also get a chance to raise the minimum wage, but to only $8.25/hr.
Citizens of 10 counties in northern Colorado will vote on whether to secede from Colorado and form a new state, called North Colorado. No matter how the vote goes, it won't happen because the state has to approve, too, and a veto from Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) is a certainty and Congress has to approve as well, something the current Senate wouldn't even consider. Counties in California, Texas, and Florida have played this game before and none of them have gotten anywhere.
In Portland, ME, voters will get the chance to legalize marijuana.
Former Congressman Charlie Bass (R) has announced that he will not run for the Republican nomination to challenge Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). Bass represented half of the state in the House from 1995 to 2007 and again from 2011 to 2013. His decision is a major disappointment to Republicans in the state and nationally, as there is no other Republican candidate with his stature to challenge Shaheen. Former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown might conceivably yet enter the race, but one can already envision Shaheen's one-word campaign slogan against Brown. It ends with "bagger" and the first part is not "tea." Short of a very unexpected development, Shaheen is safe as both of New Hampshire's representatives are Democrats (Ann McLane Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter). Furthermore, the governor, attorney general, and treasurer are all Democrats as well. The Republicans bench here is not deep. State senator Jim Rubens and activist Karen Testerman are in the race but neither is well known.