Election night 2013 is nearly upon us.
On Tuesday, political junkies will be watching a trio of marquee races: for Virginia governor, New Jersey governor and New York City mayor. While the outcomes of two of the races are rather predictable, they all have political implications for 2014 and beyond.
Here’s what’s expected to go down and why it matters:
Virginia governor’s race
Who: Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli vs. Democratic operative Terry McAuliffe to replace GOPer Bob McDonnell.
Likely outcome: Of the three races, this is the one contest where the outcome may still be in doubt. Three new polls give contrasting views, but show undecided voters and a Libertarian candidate could impact the result. Quinnipiac shows McAuliffe with just a four-point lead, while a poll from Hampton University shows him ahead by six points. Meanwhile, a Roanoke College survey shows McAuliffe with a 15-point lead over Cuccinelli.
The wrench in the race is libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis, who’s polling around 10%. All things being equal, libertarians tend to vote Republican. But in the case of a candidate like Cuccinelli – who is very far to the right on social issues like gay marriage—civil-liberty minded libertarians may look for other options. If this trend holds, and many young , would-be Republicans go libertarian instead, it could pose a big problem for the GOP.
Political implications: Virginia is something of a bellwether for the national political mood. President Obama’s margin in Virginia in 2008 and 2012 matched the national popular vote. And the state’s demographic breakdown also closely mirrors the country as a whole. If McAuliffe pulls out a decisive victory, you can bet the Dems will tout it as proof of national momentum.
Of course, controlling the governor’s mansion is always helpful for upcoming midterm elections and the presidential race, especially in terms of get out the vote efforts.
New Jersey governor’s race
Who: Incumbent Republican Gov. Chris Christie vs. Democratic State Sen. Barbara Buono
Likely Outcome: Christie is poised to win in a blowout. A new Quinnipiac University poll shows him leading by 33 points.
Political implications: Christie is frequently named as a potential presidential candidate in 2016. Another gubernatorial win would certainly help make his case – especially if he’s elected with the support of a Democratic constituency. If polls hold, Christie will win more of the black vote than any mainstream Republican for any major state-wide office in New Jersey in 20 years. While a big boost wouldn’t help with, say, white evangelical Christians in Iowa, it would be a strong statement to the Republican Party: This is a guy who can win moderates and traditionally Democratic and independent voters. That’s something the GOP needs to do in order to be competitive in 2016.
New York City’s mayoral race
Who: Public Advocate and Democrat Bill de Blasio vs. the former head of region’s transit agency and deputy mayor, Republican Joe Lhota.
Likely outcome: De Blasio leads Lhota by forty-something points. Barring a cataclysmic collapse, he’s going to cruise to a monster win.
Political implications: De Blasio would be New York’s first Democratic mayor in decades and would be a very progressive one too. In terms of urban politics, many often turn to the country’s largest city as an example. It’s an open question of what kind of mayor de Blasio would be. If Rudy Giuliani’s legacy was one of economic prosperity and improved public safety, and Mike Bloomberg’s was one of bouncing back after 9/11 and enforcing a nanny-state of health regulations, what will de Blasio’s be? Many liberals hope that he’ll fight inequality both on the income front by taxing the rich at a higher rate and on the race front by stopping New York’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy. But we’ll have to wait and see if he stays strong against the city’s powerful financial and real estate sectors.