(RICHMOND, Va.) — In the battle for governor of Virginia, Democrat Terry McAuliffe pulled out a narrow victory Tuesday over Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
Cuccinelli conceded Tuesday night despite taking an early lead over McAuliffe that held for more than two hours after the polls closed.
Virginia’s odd-year governor election and the state’s status as a pivotal swing state has made this race the most-watched contest this year for both the Democratic and Republican parties.
Democrats believe that McAuliffe’s victory over Tea Party-backed Cuccinelli will send a signal that voters will hold Republicans accountable for the government shutdown in the 2014 midterm elections.
“The American people reject Tea Party extremism, they reject the idea that it’s okay to hold the economy hostage in the name of denying quality affordable health care and they simply want us to work together,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz told ABC News Tuesday night. “I think through the 2014 midterms you’ll see that very stark contrast.”
“The Tea Party and the Republican Party are equated by voters and they can’t get away from the extremism even though they might try,” she added.
Both political parties have poured vast resources into this race.
McAuliffe, a prolific Democratic fundraiser and personal friend of former President Bill and Hillary Clinton, outraised his opponent, more than $33 million to $21 million. And his outside group allies, including Planned Parenthood, and a pro-gun control group funded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have spent millions on the airwaves attacking Cuccinelli.
Both men, however, were flawed candidates who are odd fits for Virginia’s deepening purple hue.
McAuliffe is better known as one of the Democratic Party’s most skilled political animals than the middle-of-the-road candidate he pitched himself as to voters during the campaign.
And Tea Party-backed Cuccinelli ran a fiercely conservative campaign in a state that is becoming less and less Republican with each passing day, largely as a result of demographic changes in the vote-rich D.C. suburbs.
Neither candidate inspired voters in this race with their scandal-plagued candidacies.
McAuliffe ran into trouble for ties to a beleaguered green car company, and Cuccinelli was tied to a gift scandal that embroiled the state’s Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Democrats are painting Cuccinelli’s loss as a cautionary tale for his Tea Party-tinged brand of conservatism and those in his party with presidential ambitions who are considering framing their candidacy in a way that mirrors his gubernatorial campaign.
They believe that his focus on the health care law in the final stages of the campaign essentially had no impact on the race—making that message a loser for Republicans in 2014 and beyond.
Indeed, according to preliminary exit poll results, voters were essentially split on the issue of the Affordable Care Act.
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