Christie, Cuccinelli Highlight Stark GOP Differences
Just a week out from gubernatorial elections in Massachusetts and New Jersey, the winners are clear and highlight a big electability divide in the Republican Party. In New Jersey, a state that Barack Obama carried by nearly 20 points in the last election, incumbent governor Chris Christie is poised for a 25+ point win over Democratic challenger Barbara Buono. In Virginia, a state that is trending blue but has voted for a Republican presidential candidate in 10 of the last 12 elections, Democrat Terry McAullife is poised for a double-digit win over Republican Ken Cuccinelli.
In a microcosm of the growing rift in the Republican Party, the difference may no longer be conservative versus moderate but electable versus unelectable. Once causing a political tsunami in 2010, the Tea Party is quickly losing ground and could see much of their previous electoral success wiped away in the 2014 midterm elections. In 2010, 31 percent of Tea Party-supported House candidates and 50 percent of Tea Party-supported Senate candidates won their election. In 2012, just four of 16 Tea Party-backed Senate candidates won their elections while top Tea Partiers like Allen West, Richard Mourdock, Joe Walsh, and Todd Akin were all sent packing.
While Tea Party Senate leaders like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul enjoy strong popularity in their home states, Cruz’s favorability around the nation has plummeted to 26 percent after the government shutdown while Rand Paul’s sits at 32 percent. Clearly, Republicans have found good candidates for Texas and Kentucky but the rest of the country has seen enough.
In Virginia, the race between McAullife and Cuccinelli started deadlocked, with some polls even leaning Cuccinelli. Some of the more recent polls now show him trailing by as many as 17 points. With much of the recent polling done during and after the government shutdown, this is another instance of the Tea Party shooting the Republican Party in the foot. Only about 35 percent of Virginia voters have a favorable view of McAullife, this was a very winnable race.
Republicans couldn’t have been more pleased when the Tea Party helped them wrest back control of the House in 2010 but the novelty has worn off with the conservatives’ intent on stopping government action in its tracks. With just a year of campaigning left before a big midterm election, Republicans will need more electable Chris Christies and a lot fewer Ken Cuccinellis if they want to keep power.