Lessons learned: Five takeaways from election day 2013

Nelson County may soon welcome Governor McAuliffe for a tour of the pipeline's proposed route. Photo: Prensa Internacional/ZUMAPRESS.com Nelson County may soon welcome Governor McAuliffe for a tour of the pipeline’s proposed route. Photo: Prensa Internacional/ZUMAPRESS.com

Hard to believe it, but yet another election season has come and gone, leaving a combination of ebullience and bitter disappointment in its wake. The tighter-than-expected election of Governor Terry McAuliffe has been certified, and State Senator Ralph Northam is busy measuring drapes for the lieutenant governor’s office.

Luckily for us, there is still some unfinished electoral business to take care of (namely the nail-biting recount in the attorney general election). But even as we look forward to weeks of manual vote tallying and competing claims of victory, we’re also enjoying all of the exciting lessons we learned from this crazy election.

Gerrymandering works. The GOP has raised district line-drawing to a high art, with predictable results. As of this writing, only two House incumbents (Republicans Mark Dudenhefer and Mike Watson) have been ousted, and out of the 55 House races, 10 were won by margins of five points or less. This leaves Republicans firmly in control of the House of Delegates, and observers wondering if there is anything that can upset such a deviously well-drawn map.

Republicans are a house divided. Following Ken Cuccinelli’s narrow loss, the gulf between the GOP establishment and the Cooch’s Tea Party supporters seemed almost insurmountable. The mainstream opinion was (as it so often is) perfectly articulated by Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, who insisted that the GOP must “determine what we must do to reconnect with a more diverse voter base whose support is critical to political success in Virginia.” On the other side, the general consensus was that Cuccinelli was hung out to dry by his own party. As Washington Times columnist Judson Phillips bluntly put it: “The Republican ticket failed after being sabotaged by the establishment.”

NoVA is now the kingmaker. While Democrats continue to wither in Southwest Virginia (McAuliffe lost most “coalfield” counties by 20 points or more), it no longer makes much of a difference. Consider this fact, as reported by The Washington Post: Just nine cities and counties in Northern Virginia gave McAuliffe a 135,000-vote lead over Cuccinelli, far more than enough to counter his poor showing downstate.

Democrats bet on black. Despite a slew of pre-election polls that showed McAuliffe dominating Cuccinelli among women, the Cooch actually beat the Macker among white women by 16 points. He also won big with men, and by huge margins among white men. So who powered McAuliffe’s victory? African-Americans, plain and simple. Black voters comprised 20 percent of the electorate—the same percentage that turned out to reelect Barack Obama, and four points higher than in 2009. And, in an amazing statistic that surely makes Republican strategists quake with fear, they voted for McAuliffe by a 9-to-1 margin.

Ken Cuccinelli is still a big baby. After running a terrible campaign, consistently ignoring the job that taxpayers are actually paying him to do, and delivering one of the most peevish, blame-shifting concession speeches we’ve ever heard, the Cooch capped it all off by refusing to make the traditional congratulatory phone call to the victorious McAuliffe. Well, in that general spirit of intolerance, we’d like to offer some sage advice to our soon-to-be-ex-attorney general: Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, loser.

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