Tuesday’s election results underscore the degree to which American politics has been stood on its head.
As columnist Ramesh Ponnuru argues in the New York Post, it is logical to expect that in more conservative Virginia Lt. Governor Ken Cuccinelli would do better than Republican Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey in his reelection bid. ;
But as we saw Tuesday, logic is playing very little role in politics today.
The traditional way of looking at elections – that Republicans get elected in red states and Democrats in blue states – certainly had no place in the marquee battles in Virginia and New Jersey.
To be sure, there are specific reasons that Cuccinelli was unable to win on Tuesday.
First, and perhaps most importantly, there is personality to consider. ;
Cuccinelli was successfully portrayed as a rightwing Republican with his positions on gay marriage, abortion, and social issues more generally used relentlessly against him in ads throughout the growing North Virginia suburbs.
Second, Cuccinelli was running against the legacy of the Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration, which was plagued by allegations of corruption and a growing ethics scandal. ;
McDonnell was all but silent throughout the campaign, a move that benefitted Cuccinelli in the long-run, but also left the door wide open for Democrats and spending groups to link them with little to no rebuttal.
Third, McAuliffe benefitted from over $35 million in expenditures and tremendous fundraising efforts by superstar Democrats like Bill and Hillary Clinton as well as President Obama himself.
But a look at both races suggests a few, and in particular one, common principle that links the victors: an emphasis on bipartisan governing.
Indeed, there are substantial differences between the candidates – we are talking about a Democrat and a Republican.
That said, Christie ran as a bipartisan governor, working with Democrats in the legislature and famously with President Obama on Hurricane Sandy relief. ;
The picture of the two men embracing after the storm is indelibly etched in the minds of most New Jerseyans and, arguably, most Americans.
This helped President Obama in 2012 and it almost certainly helped Governor Christie this year with Democratic leaning groups — groups he won significant levels of support from.
Christie also blunted his strong opposition to gay marriage by failing to appeal a court decision to allow same sex marriages to go forward in New Jersey.
Politically it was ideal for Christie: he was able to take the principled stand against gay marriage and at the 11th hour acquiesce in a way that would limit the fallout.
Similarly, McAuliffe was able to run as a mainstream centrist Democrat despite his liabilities.
He used economic issues to make the case that he would offer an alternative to the status quo in a state that has suffered from increased unemployment and slower than average economic growth.
So what do Christie and McAuliffe’s wins on Tuesday mean for America? That Americans wants politicians who govern in a different way.
This is not to make the case that Chris Christie and Terry McAuliffe are not traditional politicians – of course they are. But they both have understood that in this environment it is critically important for governors, and elected officials, to work across the aisle and the ideological divide to work in a bipartisan way.
The two candidates best able to do that – Chris Christie and Terry McAuliffe – have accomplished it and those efforts are arguably as responsible for their wins as anything else that may have happened.
As someone who has championed bipartisan governing throughout my entire career, Tuesday’s wins for McAuliffe and Christie are certainly a bright spot in an overly partisan and polarized America. ; ;
Douglas E. Schoen has served as a pollster for President Bill Clinton and is currently working with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He has more than 30 years experience as a pollster and political consultant. He is also a Fox News contributor and co-host of “Fox News Insiders” Sundays on Fox News Channel and Mondays at 10:30 am ET on FoxNews.com Live. He is the author of ten books including,“Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What it Means for 2012 and Beyond” (Rowman and Littlefield 2012). Follow Doug on Twitter @DouglasESchoen.