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AP declares: 'mainstream appeal,' not 'ideological positions' Election Day winner

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to fellow Republicans, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 during the Republican National Committee summer meeting in Boston. Photo Credit: Josh Reynolds/AP

Associated Press national politics reporter Ken Thomas interprets the results from Tuesday night's gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia:

If there's a lesson from Tuesday's off-year elections, it might be that during a time of deep divisions within the Republican Party, staunchly conservative GOP candidates who press ideological positions have difficulty winning general elections in competitive states. Candidates with mainstream appeal like [Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris] Christie in New Jersey and Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia can overcome obstacles that might trip up others. ...

Christie trounced his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono, offering a template for Republicans who want to win and attract a broad coalition of voters. His re-election, the largest by a Republican governor in New Jersey since 1985, could help him make a case for governing as a conservative without ceding the political middle ahead of a possible presidential bid.

A segment on CBS's "This Morning" had a segment with a similar conclusion, veiled in the form of a question: "Moving to the middle?"

Christie's reelection in a deeply blue state by a landslide can surely be seen as a sign that bipartisanship is a winning approach in politics. But McAuliffe's win in purple state Virginia doesn't make that case nearly as well. His opponent, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is demonstrably more ideological than someone like Christie (Cucinelli campaigned to advance child protection legislation by bringing back an anti-sodomy law). And yet, McAuliffe only won his race by about two points. And he did that with the clout of Bill and Hillary Clinton (personal friends) and President Obama rallying for him in the final days of the campaign.

Without any real similarities between the two, the meaning of these elections is muddled at best. To his credit, Thomas acknowledges that they "don't offer a greater meaning into the nation's political psyche."


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