(NEW YORK) — Broad support for legal abortion, skepticism about the Tea Party, fallout from the federal government shutdown and doubts about his political ideology confront Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia, while personal and professional plaudits greet Chris Christie in New Jersey — a tale of two very different Republicans.
In Virginia, six in 10 voters in preliminary exit poll results say they support legal abortion, which GOP gubernatorial candidate Cuccinelli has opposed prominently. Voters by a double-digit margin are more apt to say they oppose than support the Tea Party political movement, which backs Cuccinelli. And half call Cuccinelli “too conservative,” an opening for his Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe.
Moreover, the one in three Virginia voters who say someone in their household was affected by the partial federal shutdown last month are far more likely to blame the Republican Party than Barack Obama for letting it happen — by a broad 20-point margin.
Another challenge for Cuccinelli is the changing racial and ethnic makeup of Virginia: In the 2009 gubernatorial election, 78 percent of Virginia voters where white. In preliminary exit poll results Tuesday night, it’s 72 percent. The issue is a challenge for Republicans nationally, as Mitt Romney demonstrated in 2012.
Further, Virginia voters in these preliminary results divide about evenly on the new federal health care law, which Cuccinelli has sharply opposed. And they pick the economy over health care as their top issue of concern by a 20-point margin.
In New Jersey’s gubernatorial contest, meanwhile, Democrat Barbara Buono faces an incumbent with broad personal and professional appeal. More than six in 10 voters in preliminary exit poll results see Christie favorably and approve of his handling of the state’s economy. A remarkable number — more than eight in 10 — approve of Christie’s handling of the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.
Notably, even with those very high scores, preliminary results put Christie slightly behind Hillary Clinton in a hypothetical matchup for 2016, suggesting that even a Republican as popular as Christie can face difficulties against a strong opponent in his substantially more Democratic state.
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