While I'll admit surprise at some of the margins, the outcomes of the races are not much of a surprise in to anyone paying attention over the past weeks. The Valley typically runs 65-70% red and the outcome in the House races confirms this advantage continues. If GOP House candidates hadn't campaigned at all, they'd still have easily won.
A least one local whiner has bemoaned the nomination (actually he used his blog to undermine the ticket since the primary) of Creigh Deeds, believing that Terry McAuliffe would have brought energy to the Democratic ticket... I doubt the outcome would have been much different. From my perch, McAuliffe would have divided Democrats and united Republicans even more... if that is possible. True, the Deeds campaign stumbled and missed opportunities, but the stars were aligned for a Republican win in Virginia in 2009 and only major mistakes by McDonnell and friends could have changed the result. Have you heard the rumor that Terry is hinting at a run in 2013?
Actually, the GOP win in NJ is much more surprising than their wins in Virginia. The Garden State is (was?) deep blue while Virginia, despite last year's win by Obama, is at best reddish purple. Virginia voters are greatly impacted by the blowback from across the Potomac... millions of dollars of ads on health care, climate change, card check and so forth affect NOVA and beyond (we get D.C. stations here in the Valley). The net result was a growing frustration with all things government that was a drag on gubernatorial candidates seen as incumbents or surrogates for incumbents.
Running contrary to the anti-government mood was the passage of the meals tax in Rockingham County. The tax will only affect restaurants outside of town limits and 100% of funds raised support schools. Proponents were able to sell the tax as a way to avoid raising real estate taxes and as a tax that would be paid by others such as travelers along I-81. So, a tax was sold as anti-tax?
Looking ahead, several things come to mind. Virginia's budget will present very real challenges to McDonnell, the General Assembly, and to all Virginians. Hopefully, bipartisan solutions can be found. Just as the Republicans used our wonderful system of checks and balances to block some of Governor Tim Kaine's initiatives, the Democratic Virginia Senate will likely block McDonnell if he tries to shift General Fund dollars from schools to build roads.
Ironically, Governor-elect McDonnell's future is now closely linked to President Obama's. The success of each depends on a recovering economy and job creation. For the good of everyone, we should all hope they are successful in that endeavor.