Election 2013: Pundits Parse the Governor’s Races

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With the November 5 election results tallied, it is time for political Monday morning quarterbacking to begin. The races receiving the most pundit and partisan attention are two governors races. One was held in New Jersey between incumbent Republican Chris Christie and Democratic challenger Barbara Buono. Christie won handily with 61 percent of the vote. Virginia’s gubernatorial challenge pitted Democrat Terry McAuliffe against Republican Ken Cuccinelli. The surprisingly close race gave McAuliffe the Governor’s House by a margin of less than 3 percentage points.

The Washington Post‘s Carter Eskew voiced his belief that the results solidify the stance that Republicans must run moderate candidates in order to win elections. “Cuccinelli’s reactionary social views,” Eskew says, explain how McAuliffe, “a cipher of a candidate” was able to win. Christie’s results “simply confirmed” the need of Republicans to “be moderates to win statewide.”

Eskew calls this lesson “obvious to many,” but not with “Republican zealots.” They, he believes, will not want to swallow this bitter pill and instead, across America “a new generation of extremely conservative activists are ready to put their ideals ahead of  any loyalty to party.” Eskew has had a long career as a Democratic campaign advisor, and is the cofounder of the Glover Park Group, a strategic communications consulting firm.

On the Republican side, Ralph Reed, President of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, took to the pages of the National Review Online to discuss the Virginia race. Polls had indicated McAuliffe was on his way to an easy victory, so the close race shocked many. Reed attributes the sudden turn-around to: “A superior conservative and GOP ground game, a failure of Obama voters to turn out for McAuliffe, and the meltdown of Obamacare over the past two weeks, which closed the race to a statistical dead heat.”

Also in the National Review Online is conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg’s take on the Virginia race. Goldberg writes that, “Cuccinelli, a flawed candidate running against an even more flawed human being, could have pulled this thing out if he’d had more help at the end.” Both Reed and Goldberg touch on two key aspects of Politico‘s analysis of the race. All three agree that Obamacare could have meant defeat for McAuliffe, and that had Cuccinelli had more funding, it is possible he could have won.

Ari Fleischer, a former George W. Bush press secretary, does not believe it is a mandate for moderates, but rather, what the elections indicate ”is that Republicans need to be more welcoming and inclusive in the way we govern and speak,” Fleischer told the Wall Street Journal. “What we can’t be is excluding and non-welcoming.”

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