By Bill Schneider
“The truth is, we’re going to have to have some higher taxes in order to generate the money we need to solve the problem.”
When was the last time you heard a Republican talk like that? That was Virginia’s Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling talking to the Washington Post last month about the state’s persistent transportation crisis. Bolling has been elected to his position twice as a Republican (in 2005, when Virginia elected a Democratic governor, and in 2009 when the state elected the current Republican governor).
Bolling says he will decide by March 14 whether he will jump into the race for governor this year as an Independent, or what he calls an “Independent Republican.” It could be the first battle in a Republican civil war resulting from Mitt Romney’s unexpectedly decisive defeat last year. “It’s just a challenging time for the Republican Party when a conservative, mainstream guy like me doesn’t really feel comfortable with his party,” Bolling told the Post. “The party has moved too far, and it’s become too extreme and too ideological.”
Case in point: Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who has become the champion of tea party and religious right Republicans. Last year, Cuccinelli supporters took over the Virginia Republican Party’s central committee and switched the contest for the 2013 gubernatorial nomination from a primary to a convention. Bolling, who was planning a primary race, didn’t stand a chance to carry a convention controlled by Cuccinelli activists. Bolling got out of the Republican race a few weeks after the presidential election in November, after waiting to see whether he would accede to the governor’s chair if Romney won and appointed the current Republican governor to an Administration position.
Virginia and New Jersey are the only two states that elect governors in the year following a presidential election. That means both will hold elections for governor in 2013.
Here’s how the two states have voted for governor going back to 1977. There’s a pattern.
Both states have a tradition of electing governors from the party that just lost the White House. In New Jersey, the tradition goes back to 1989. In Virginia, it goes back to 1977.
That’s because the electorate shrinks radically in the off year election. In New Jersey, 3.9 million people voted for President in 2008. In 2009, only 2.4 million voted for governor. In Virginia, the electorate shrank from 3.7 million in 2008 to 2.0 million in 2009. The winning presidential party loses its bonus voters—people who vote once every four years, mostly for the winner.
Will the tradition continue in 2013? Right now, Republican Chris Christie looks like a good bet for re-election in New Jersey. His approval ratings since Hurricane Sandy have been soaring. Virginia will be a tougher test. The Republican candidate is likely to be Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
Cuccinelli has taken intensely controversial positions on abortion, gun control, climate change, health care reform, immigration and gay rights. If “Cooch” is nominated and loses, it would provide yet more evidence that Republicans are throwing away elections by going too far to the right.
Read more in the December 2012 Inside Politics Newsletter.
In all 12 of the presidential battleground states, Obama maintains leads in polling averages in 9 states and Romney in 3 states. If these polls held on Election Day, President Obama would be reelected with 290 electoral votes and Romney would have 248 electoral votes.
It is difficult to assess how the candidates are performing among Independents in the state polls. Many of the state-level polls do not report data for Independents, have very small sample sizes for their crosstabs, or provide contradictory data.
For example, in Ohio both Quinnipiac and Public Policy Polling released state level data this week. Both had Obama winning the state by 5 points, but Quinnipiac has Romney winning Independents by 6 (49% to 43%) while PPP has Independents evenly split.
Read more in our newest analysis of the numbers: Rage Against the Machine: Independent Registration Soars Since 2008.
By Katelyn Polantz, PBS NewsHour
Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine inched toward an endorsement of gay marriage Tuesday and said his party should take a stance on the issue.
The Democratic Senate candidate and former Virginia governor told reporters he believes that gay couples deserve the same “legal rights and responsibilities” as straight couples. He also said he hopes the party would “affirm that principle” and establish a platform on the issue, Kaine said at a breakfast hosted by the Democratic think tank Third Way.