Tuesday told a tale of two campaigns — and perhaps provided two lessons for 2014.
In New Jersey, GOP Gov. Chris Christie sailed to victory by 21 percentage points in the Democrat-dominated state.
In Virginia, meanwhile, Republican Ken Cuccinelli couldn’t eke out a win over Terry McAuliffe, a candidate who occasionally received voter approval ratings south of 30 percent and who was dubbed either “cancer” or “a heart attack” by "The Daily Show." How does Cuccinelli lose to a candidate voters dislike so widely?
For sure, he and Christie are different. Cuccinelli’s low approval ratings in Virginia mirrored McAuliffe’s. The New Jerseyan, on the other hand, boasts bipartisan appeal — note his high-profile post-Sandy bromance with President Barack Obama — and is perhaps that rare blue-chip candidate whom Republicans can’t realistically place on every ballot.
Do these two high-profile gubernatorial elections furnish the GOP a strategy going forward? Who better to ask for a plan than the voters? Yahoo News invited Republicans and conservatives in each state to perform a postmortem on Tuesday’s results and also to look forward to future campaigns: What did their party learn that it can apply across the nation in 2014, 2016 and beyond?
Here’s advice voters offered the morning after. Click their names to read their full thoughts.
Abandon social conservatism
Annie Tobey, 53, votes for Republicans in most Virginia elections. But on Tuesday, she backed Libertarian Party candidate Robert Sarvis, who received 6.6 percent of the votes. She writes:
Increasingly, the Republican Party is influenced by the tea party, which is controlled by religious fundamentalists. Cuccinelli is a sterling example of this religious domination, especially controlling a woman's body and depriving gays and lesbians of equal rights.
Increasingly, as in the 2013 governor's race, I find myself called upon to choose between financial slavery and personal slavery: The Democrats want to hijack my purse, while the Republicans want to control my personal life. I'd rather give up my money.
Until the Republican Party can promote both social and economic liberty, I will not be able to give them my support, in 2014 or beyond.
Hammer away at Democrats’ support of the Affordable Care Act
Jeff Dunsavage, 51, is a lifelong New Jerseyan and lives in Dunellen. He has voted Republican in nearly every election since he first registered. He writes:
The next Democratic presidential candidate will reap the grief or glory of Obamacare. If President Obama and the Democratic leadership can bring this beast to heel, the party will have something to crow about. If not, the ACA may well be the vehicle that carries a Republican into the White House.
Right now, Christie seems the most likely beneficiary. But a lot can change in a few years.
Robert Peterson is a 36-year-old conservative voter in Sterling, Va. He writes:
McAuliffe's biggest weakness in my opinion was his full-sell mentality regarding the ACA, and it wasn't until late in the election that the Republicans advertisements focused on the effect that ACA would have on the Virginia budget and Virginian businesses that are shouldering new requirements of the health care law. If ACA fails, it should be the Republicans’ prominent lead in 2014 and 2016.
Stop being such a politician
Arrivanna Brooks, 28, lives in Clifton, N.J., and has voted Republican in elections since she was 18. She writes:
Christie's campaign teaches us that politicians need to be, well, non-politicians. In other words: Be more honest, reach across the aisle, commend the other side, don’t always say no just to say no. That resonates. Christie does not mince words, but he stands up for what he believes in. Republicans often say one thing and then distance themselves if they field a lot of blowback. Say what you mean. Stick by it. Voters want that loyalty.
Make campaigns more about issues and less about the party
Ashley Raybourn has been a registered voter and Republican in Virginia for 10 years, but cast a Democratic ballot for the first time. She is 28 and votes in Hampton.
The race for governor in New Jersey turned out quite differently; Christie won by a landslide. As colorful a character as he is, I think the Republican Party could stand to learn a lot from him. He wasn't afraid to point fingers at his own party when federal disaster relief was held up by House Republicans and he worked with a Democratic president in Sandy's aftermath. Some Republicans, such as myself, are fed up with members in our own party and he showed that it's OK to call them out and even reach across the aisle in the best interest of his constituents.
And take heart: It’s not all moonlight and roses for Democrats, either
Lyn Brooks, 45, lives in rural southwest Virginia near Roanoke. She writes:
Results show McAuliffe beat Cuccinelli by fewer than 55,000 votes statewide. That number is hardly a "clear mandate" that shows approval of Obama, Obamacare, or even a clear repudiation of the recent government shut down, threat of default, or the tea party.
Would a more socially moderate Republican have defeated McAuliffe? The narrow victory margin certainly suggests this.
The fact that McAuliffe beat Cuccinelli by such a small number should concern Democrats as the 2014 midterm elections draw near. To me, this narrow victory implies that Democrats face strong headwinds, and there is still time for Republicans to repair the fallout from this year's government shut down. If issues continue to plague the roll out of Obamacare, and if millions of Americans continue to receive cancellation notices in the mail from their insurers due to Obamacare, Democrats will pay the price in 2014 for Obama's lie: "If you like your plan, you can keep it," just as President George H.W. Bush paid the price for his infamous falsehood, "Read my lips: no new taxes."