As partisanship renders Washington largely dysfunctional, voters in two states signaled this week that they want consensus-building even when there’s divided government.
Even so, heading into a 2014 midterm election year, Tuesday’s results in New Jersey and Virginia carry plenty of warning signs for both parties that despite the voter angst, hyper-partisanship still is likely to rule, especially on debates over the budget and health care.
In reliably Democratic New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie easily won a second term with support from voters who aligned with President Barack Obama last November.
In Virginia, one of the nation’s most competitive states, longtime Democratic Party power broker Terry McAuliffe defeated Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli by a narrow margin for governor, but Republicans retained control of the House of Delegates.
McAuliffe and Christie each embraced the notion of bipartisanship in their victory. Exit polls and reactions from national party players — including tea-party activists — suggest that Republicans and Democrats are likely to remain entrenched in their partisan positions.
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, noted many states where incumbent Republicans were elected in the 2010 tea-party wave, including Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, all states Obama won twice. “They’re stuck with a bunch of tea-party governors who are Ken Cuccinelli’s clone,” Shumlin said.
At the Democrats’ national Senate campaign office, spokesman Matt Canter noted that in competitive GOP Senate primaries around the country, all candidates have embraced the shutdown. Meanwhile, congressional Republicans running for the Senate without tough primary opposition — Tom Cotton in Arkansas and Shelley Moore Capito in West Virginia — voted for the temporary fix. “They know it’s awful politics for them,” Canter said.
But Democrats’ interpretation ignores voter dissatisfaction with the health care law. Half of New Jersey voters and 53 percent of Virginia voters said they opposed it, and the two Democratic governor candidates got 11 percent and 14 percent of those voters.