washingtonpost.com
Election 2009: Va. and N.J. governor races, Va. attorney general race, NY-23, gay marriage in Maine, More
Up to the minute returns and analysis

Robert McCartney
Washington Post Metro columnist
Tuesday, November 3, 2009 7:00 PM

Washington Post Metro columnist Robert McCartney was online Tuesday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m. ET to discuss and analyze the 2009 primary and general election returns for Virginia governor and attorney general, the New Jersey governor's race, the NY-23 election, gay marriage in Maine and more with the latest news throughout the evening.

Full Coverage

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Robert McCartney:

The polls have just closed in Virginia, so let the chat begin.

It looks like it's going to be an early night and a big Republican victory in Virginia. Initial exit poll results confirm pre-election surveys showing strong trends toward the GOP in the Old Dominion.

In particular, independents are breaking heavily for the Republicans. Also, their gubernatorial candidate, Bob McDonnell, is winning big even in the southwest part of the state -- which is the home of Democratic nominee Creigh Deeds.

The initial exit polls suggest Deeds is excelling only in ultra-blue inner suburbs like Arlington. That usually isn't enough for Democrats, who need support from outer suburbs like Loudoun and Prince William as well.

I'll be reporting results as they come in and taking your questions about all aspects of the race. What does this mean for Virginia? For President Obama's agenda in Washington? For Republican and Democratic strategies for the 2010 mid-term elections?

I'm interested in the down-ticket races in Virginia, too, where Republicans Bill Bolling and Ken Cuccinelli II have been ahead in the polls for lieutenant governor and attorney general, respectively.

A hundred House of Delegates seats are also up for grabs, with Republicans hoping to fatten their majority.

Finally, I'll be taking questions about other races around the country: the ultra-tight gubernatorial race in New Jersey; the topsy-turvy campaign for a U.S. congressional seat in upstate New York's 23rd district; and the same-sex marriage referendum in Maine.

Let's hear some good questions!

Posted 7:00 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Outside the Beltway: Because of the close race in N.J., the defeat of a Democrat for governor in Virginia, and a possible Republican win in up-state New York, do you think there is a resurgence of conservatism? Also, do you think this is a signal that President Obama needs to take seriously?

Robert McCartney: Based on what we know so far, I certainly see some resurgence of conservatism. In both Virginia and New Jersey, the GOP campaigned effectively against taxes and government spending. They succeeded, at least to some extent, in linking those issues to voters' concerns about jobs and the economy.

However, I draw a distinction between what the expected results mean for President Obama, as opposed to the rest of the national Democratic party.

Both Republican and Democratic strategists told me today that Obama, as an individual, remains popular with voters. McDonnell didn't demonize Obama. On the contrary, he repeatedly talked about issues where he agreed with the president -- especially education, where both support charter schools and merit pay for teachers. So yes, I think the president still needs to be taken seriously.

But the strategists from both parties also agreed that the Democrats in state races faced a headwind of unhappiness over policies that their party as a whole is supporting in Washington.

Republicans are furious, and independents are skeptical, over the explosion in deficit spending. They're also unhappy over plans to expand government significantly such as through health care reform and cap-and-trade climate legislation.

Posted 7:00 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Fairfax Station, Va.: I'm glad that the Virginia campaign is finally over and I will no longer be subjected to the TV ads that tell me what the Washington Post thinks. Deeds and even to a lesser extent, McDonnell, seem to think that will somehow matter in how I chose to vote. I find that insulting.

Robert McCartney: I think a lot of us will be happy not to see so many political advertisements anymore.

As for both candidates citing The Washington Post, that shows that both parties think that a lot of voters take seriously what The Post thinks. (By the way, those ads typically cite positions taken by the newspapers editorial page, not by columnists like me.)

The Post's endorsement of Deeds in the Democratic primary played a big role in his getting the nomination. If the polls are right, though, The Post's endorsement didn't help him in the general election, obviously.

Posted 7:01 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Va. polling places report slow but steady turnout (Post, Nov. 3)

Posted 7:02 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Arlington, Va.: Not to beat a dead topic (and it probably didn't matter in the elections), but what is the point of the Post's editorial board endorsements? Except for one district in Virginia, every single candidate they endorsed was a Democrat and in the over 100 year history of the paper, they have never endorsed a Republican for the presidency. Its disingenuous to say the editorial makes an unbiased endorsement. The people on the board in general prefer Democrats ideas to Republican ones, giving Democrats a leg up on getting the endorsement.

Robert McCartney:

The editorial board's endorsements have indeed generally been Democratic. But there have been exceptions. The Post endorsed Republican Bob Ehrlich for reelection as governor of Maryland in 2006. Martin O'Malley, the Democrat who won, wasn't too pleased. Also, The Post chose not to endorse anyone for president in 1988, when George H.W. Bush was running against Michael Dukakis. That was seen as a pretty big slap at Dukakis.

Posted 7:07 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Exit polls show McDonnell with early lead in Va. gubernatorial race (Post, Nov. 3)

Posted 7:11 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Yonkers, N.Y.: Who do you think will take the N.J. race?

Robert McCartney:

New Jersey governor's race is too close to call. That's the big question mark tonight. If GOP wins there, as well as in Virginia as expected, it's a debacle for the Democrats.

Posted 7:13 p.m., 11.3.2009

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20910: Any word on the Maine marriage equality amendment? I heard turnout was high -- good news for marriage equality supporters, I suppose. Any exit poll numbers?

Robert McCartney:

I haven't seen anything yet on Maine same-sex marriage amendment. Polls close there (and in New Jersey) at 8 p.m.

Posted 7:13 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Polls have N.J. governor and GOP challenger in a dead heat, with key variables being turnout and third candidate.

Posted 7:19 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Photo: Talk at polls in New York focus on change in term-limits law allowing Mayor Bloomberg to run for a third term.g

Posted 7:21 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Alexandria, Va.: Will the Post please stop talking about the Virginia governor's race reflecting on Obama. The Democratic Party had a weak candidate in Deeds, who couldn't articulate how he was going to govern. Most people who voted for Deeds did so simply because they disliked McDonnell more.

There is still huge support for Obama here in Virginia.

Any exit polls on the Maine gay marriage referendum?

Robert McCartney:

I agree that the Democrats had a weak candidate in Deeds.

Also, exit polls say a majority of voters in Virginia and New Jersey said Obama was not a factor in their vote for governor.

But Obama and the national Democrats bear some -- repeat, some -- responsibility for the difficulties faced by Deeds and Corzine.

McDonnell successfully tied Deeds to some policies of the national Democratic party that independent voters didn't like -- cap-and-trade, union card check, health reform.

Democratic strategists said they faced a headwind starting last summer because of Republicans energized by hostility to Obama, and independents skeptical of what they saw coming out of Washington where the Democrats control the White House and both houses of Congress.

Posted 7:23 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Alexandria, Va.: In the Democratic primary Deeds defeated two prominent Northern Virgina Democrats, including Brian Moran who, at one point was the presumptive nominee. I sense that after the primary he struggled to effectively energized the NoVA democratic organization. Is that how you see it?

Robert McCartney: Yes, I think Deeds didn't connect with Northern Virginian voters nearly as much as he needed to win a statewide race in Virginia.

Posted 7:24 p.m., 11.3.2009

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McLean, Va.: Doesn't it seem like it's easier to mobilize people against someone than for someone? During Bush's second term, just mentioning his name was enough to send streams of Democrats running to the nearest polling place. Now it's the same with Republicans and Obama.

Robert McCartney: I agree with this.

The Republicans are now energized by hostility to Obama just as Democrats a year ago were enthused at the prospect of defeating a Republican after 8 years of George W. Bush.

That's another reason why I think Obama bears some responsibility for any losses tonight. The GOP base is salivating in part over the prospect of striking a blow at him.

Posted 7:26 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Alexandria, Va.: Why is it a debacle for the Democratic party if both Corzine and Deeds lose? Isn't that a bit hyperbolic -- and a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Seems to me that Deeds and Corzine are individuals in very different states facing very different challenges. Why can't WaPo be more responsible about piercing through the spin on the "national stakes" of these elections, rather than amplifying it?

Robert McCartney: The Democrats won the last two governors' races in Virginia. They won the presidential contest in the state a year ago for the first time since 1964. Their governor, Tim Kaine, is the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

In New Jersey, the Democrats have a large advantage in party registration. They have the incumbent governor. They benefit from a third-party candidate who hurts the GOP, on balance.

New Jersey and Virginia are populous, important states. We're not talking about Wyoming and Vermont here, people.

Their gubernatorial races are the two biggest elections between the 2008 presidential vote and the 2010 mid-terms.

Given those circumstances, Democratic losses in both races tonight would, in my mind, constitute "a debacle."

Posted 7:29 p.m., 11.3.2009

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New York: How's the NY 23rd turning out?

Robert McCartney: I haven't seen anything yet on the New York 23rd. POlls there close at 9 p.m.

Posted 7:30 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Ashburn, Va.: If Cuccinelli is elected AG in Virginia, what will he actually be able to do regarding his desire to remake the role of attorney general and focus on his conservative projects (per the Post article a week or so ago)? In other words, what power will he have to funnel his ideology through that office?

Robert McCartney: Assuming he wins, Cuccinelli would have some ability to advance his conservative agenda through the state attorney general's office. A big question, I think, is how far McDonnell would let him go. McDonnell would want to let him push through some stuff, partly because it's what he believes in his heart (in my opinion) and partly to keep the GOP's Christian conservative and Tea Party activists happy.

But McDonnell would also have to worry about alienating independent voters who are socially moderate. That could hurt the GOP in Virginia in the long haul.

McDonnell ran a smart campaign, in my view, by focusing on bread-and-butter issues like jobs, taxes, energy and transportation. He didn't talk a lot about so-called culture war topics. It'll be fascinating to see how he balances those issues as governor, assuming as I do that he's going to win.

Posted 7:35 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Robert McCartney:

News alert: The Post is reporting that the early exit polls show McDonnell holding "a sizable early lead," but the race is too close to call for the moment.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/03/AR2009110300371.html?hpid=bigstory

Posted 7:38 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Exit polls show McDonnell with early lead in Va. gubernatorial race (Post, Nov. 3)

Posted 7:41 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Sarasota, Fla.: Deeds is not a weak candidate. He's a Democrat who ran on the Democrat party line. Only when the polls showed he was in trouble did Obama, Emanuel et al attempt to distance themselves. What say you Rob?

Robert McCartney:

Sorry, but I think Deeds was a pretty weak candidate. He tied himself in knots at the Fairfax debate over whether he was willing to raise taxes to pay for transportation. First he declared he wasn't going to raise taxes. Then he acknowledged that he would be willing to raise taxes to pay for transportation.

Deeds seems to have thought he could win just by claiming the legacy of the previous two Democratic govenors, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. He didn't lay out detailed, clearcut plans for where he wanted to take Virginia. By all account, he didn't succeed in connecting well with African American voters, who are a critical part of a Democratic coalition in the state.

On the other hand, I agree that the White House stabbed Deeds in the back with anonymous leaks to The Post criticizing him and trying to distance Obama from him. It wasn't classy.

Posted 7:42 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Fredericksburg, Md.: It's early, but does McDonnell have national ambitions?

Robert McCartney: I don't know, but I believe McDonnell is already on the short list for the GOP vice presidential nomination in 2010.

Posted 7:42 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Anonymous: Hello Mr. McCartney: I would like to know whether Virginia is mostly liberal or conservative. I'm not from there, but I've heard that Northern Virginia is predominately liberal while the rest of Virginia is conservative. How is that so?

Robert McCartney:

Northern Virginia is indeed the Democratic power base in the state. Conventional wisdom holds that a Democrat needs to win 60 percent in the Washington, D.C. suburbs in order to offset GOP advantages elsewhere.

There are pockets of Democratic support elsewhere in the state, especially in African American communities in the Hampton Roads area.

The key to the state for Democrats, however, is indeed Northern Virginia.

Posted 7:44 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: McDonnell grabs early lead

Posted 7:52 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Robert McCartney:

News Alert: More good news for GOP in early exit polls. They suggest African American turnout in Virginia is running about 15 percent, down from 20 percent in 2008 when Obama won. Also, the share of the vote that is under the age of 30 is about half the percentage in 2008. Democratic strategists were hoping to get young people to the polls today, to help reproduce the Democratic "surge" of a year ago.

Posted 7:55 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Centreville, Va.: What does rural Virginia look like tonight? Ruby-red?

Robert McCartney:

Yes, indications are the rural Virginia is indeed crimson.

Posted 7:56 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Northern Neck of Virginia: You wrote: partly to keep the GOP's Christian conservative and Tea Party activists happy.

Do you think that the Christian conservatives and the Tea Party activists have the same adgenda? Personally, I do not. Your thoughts please.

Robert McCartney:

No, I didn't mean at all to say they have the same agenda. I meant to say that Cuccinelli appeals to both. Cuccinelli is very conservative on right-to-life, same-sex marriage and other issues of importance to the Christian conservatives. He also is strongly anti-tax and pro-states' rights as are the Tea Party activists.

Posted 7:57 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Ellicott City, Md.: Virginia has a trend of electing a governor from the opposite party as the president, and this will likely be the case this year too. Is there a reason why this happens?

Robert McCartney:

Good question. For more than three decades, Virginia has elected a governor of the party opposed to the party of the winner of the White House in the preceding year.

Virginia voters appear to like checks and balances. They like to keep the parties in contention. They like to preserve an equilibrium.

Posted 7:59 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Annandale, Va.: This election was lost by Deeds when he spent too much time on the Thesis aided and abetted by the Post. Unlike the macaca moment with Allen. McDonnell was smart enough to briefly comment on the issue and move on refusing to engage the Post. Do you have any comments on how this reflects on your newspaper (both the trumpeting of attack issues and the fact that one party has decided it is not worth their time to talk to you)

Robert McCartney:

I agree that Deeds spent too much time on the thesis. I wrote a column saying it wasn't enough for him to focus just on the thesis, and that he'd better come up with some forward-looking positions on practical issues or he was going to be in trouble.

I think the whole thing reflects fine on The Post. My colleague Amy Gardner broke the news about the thesis. She did so after McDonnell himself mentioned it to her, by the way. It was news to the Democrats.

The thesis was important to some voters. Not enough to change the result, it seems, but it was cited in driving down McDonnell's numbers significantly in one poll that we conducted.

Based on the tone of your question, I'm guessing that you will be disappointed to hear that it's just not true that one party has decided it is not worth their time to talk to us. I had a long conversation with a Republican strategist earlier today.

Posted 8:03 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Robert McCartney:

NEWS BULLETIN: I'm told that NBC and CNN are both calling McDonnell the winner in Virginia. I'll go now and see what my colleagues at The Post say.

Posted 8:04 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Alexandria, Va.: The writing is basically on the wall...I understand there's no such thing as too cautious after 2000, but how long will the media outlets wait before calling what seems like a no-brainer for McDonnell in Virginia?

Robert McCartney: NEWS BULLETIN: Post also has called McDonnell the winner. Still no word yet on the races for lieutenant governor and attorney general, but personally, I'm expecting a sweep.

Posted 8:07 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Anonymous: Do you feel that Deeds ran as a Dem while still trying NOT to look like an Obama Dem? Could the Dems have fled from him for that reason?

Robert McCartney: This is a question that's going to be debated at length in the post-mortems and (doubtless) recriminations among the Democrats.

I think Deeds erred on Obama just as he erred on some other issues, such as taxes and the public option in health care: He wouldn't take a strong position and stick to it.

Early on, Deeds declined to characterize himself as an "Obama Democrat." He called himself "a Creigh Deeds Democrat," but wouldn't elaborate.

I think he did that, almost certainly, because he was worried about getting tagged with all the negatives about Obama: explosive deficit spending, cap-and-trade, union card check.

But that was self-defeating for Deeds by the end of the campaign, when he found he needed votes from the Democrats who came out in 2008 because of their enthusiasm for Obama. He had a hard time tapping into that Obama "surge" of a year ago.

Also, his ambivalence about Obama matched his ambiguity about his positions on some other issues, notably taxes.

Posted 8:12 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Live Video Coverage of McDonnell Headquarters

Posted 8:14 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Vienna, Va.: Your comment on Deeds tying himself in knots about taxes at that debate is interesting. The GOP spent a LOT of money on D.C. TV showing him doing just that, including a clip of him addressing another reporter as "young lady." Those two words might have undone any good the Deeds campaign was trying to do by talking about McDonnell's attitude towards women. Thoughts?

Robert McCartney:

I don't know how much the "young lady" remark hurt Deeds. Personally, I don't think it should have hurt him. The reporter said she wasn't insulted. He smiled when he said it. It was sort of mock-polite rather than patronizing.

However, I think Deeds's performance speaking to the press "gaggle" after the Fairfax debate was indeed very harmful -- but not because of the "young lady" comment. It was harmful because Deeds clearly was at a loss to explain his position on whether he'd raise taxes to pay for transportation improvements. As I wrote the next day, he sounded both vague and two-faced.

Deeds tried to sort it out a few days later, in an op-ed article for The Post. Even there, though, he said he'd be willing to raise taxes -- but he didn't provide specifics. He didn't say by how much, or what kinds of taxes.

McDonnell, by contrast, had a detailed transportation plan. I think a lot of it is completely unrealistic, but at least he had a plan.

(Full disclosure: I was in that press gaggle after the Fairfax debate, by the way, and asked a number of questions in it. I am visible and audible in at least two of the television ads that McDonnell ran.)

Posted 8:17 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Photo Gallery: Virginia elects a new governor

Posted 8:17 p.m., 11.3.2009

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20910: For the love of tiny puppies, will people PLEASE lay off the Post and their endorsements? They endorse who they endorse. It's kept separate from the news. They don't make the campaign ads. It is what it is. We've had the same questions on this subject asked and answered for weeks now. Can we please, as a country, move on?

Robert McCartney:

I'll keep answering questions about The Post's endorsements as long as people ask them, but I think this reader makes a good point.

Posted 8:18 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Chicago, Ill.: Polls in New Jersey must have closed. What do you think about the turnout and whom does a higher turnout help?

Robert McCartney: Polls in New Jersey have indeed closed. Exit polls say it's way too close to call. High turnout helps the Democrat, Corzine.

Posted 8:22 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Williamsburg, Va.: How many seats are Democrats expected to lose in the House of Delegates? How is Greg Werkheiser supposed to be doing against Dave Albo?

Robert McCartney: Going into the race, Republicans had a 55-to-45 edge over the Democrats in the Virginia House of Delegates. (The 55 include 2 independents who caucus with the GOP.)

So far tonight, my colleague Tim Craig reports that the Republicans have picked up 3 seats. So they'll go at least to 57-to-43.

They may pick up more. The most optimistic forecast is for Republicans to pick up 8-12 seats. That would be pretty big.

Democrats control the state Senate. It's up for grabs next year.

Posted 8:24 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Alexandria, Va.: Don't know if the Post has called it yet, but others have, Cuccinelli as the Attorney General-elect.

What will that mean for that Senate district? Will the Republicans be able to hold that at 21-19 or will the Dems be able to get to 22-18 in the state Senate?

Robert McCartney: Ironically, assuming Cuccinelli becomes attorney general, the Democrats would indeed have a good chance of picking up his state Senate seat in southwest Fairfax. That would be a setback for the GOP.

Posted 8:24 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Anonymous: How do you see the New York mayorial race?

Robert McCartney: Bloomberg will easily win reelection as mayor of New York.

Posted 8:25 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: McDonnell wins Virginia governor's race (Post, Nov. 3)

Posted 8:26 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Election Results: Governor, Virginia

Posted 8:29 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Del Ray, Va.: Okay, so it's a done deal. What can I expect with McDonnell in office in terms of social agendas?

As a pro-choice, agnostic Democratic female who supports gay rights, do I need to be worried?

Robert McCartney: McDonnell has certainly pledged to oppose any expansion of abortion rights and to protect the state constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage. He has said he'll veto giving state money to Planned Parenthood. (The Democrats say the Planned Parenthood money isn't used for abortion but for contraception, mammograms and other health-care matters.)

Frankly, I kind of doubt that McDonnell will do a lot in practical terms to push a social, religious-based agenda. The governor's main responsibilities involve other issues, especially the budget, transportation and education.

However, I'd certainly expect McDonnell (and Cuccinelli, assuming he wins, too) to take symbolic steps whenever possible in favor of conservative social policies. I think McDonnell will be restrained about going too far and alienating independents who could turn against the GOP in the future.

Posted 8:29 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Robert McCartney:

NEWS BULLETIN: Fox News predits triple sweep for GOP in Virginia. So it's projecting Bolling winning lieutenant governorship, and Cuccinelli winning as state attorney general.

Posted 8:31 p.m., 11.3.2009

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New York : Corzine losing is a debacle for the Dems? I would say that the Hoffman victory in N.Y., which is probable, and the unique way it happened, is a bigger debacle for the GOP. If they think there are enough Sarah Palin and Jeff Beck followers to become a national party again, they're crazy.

Robert McCartney: I think this is partisan wishful thinking, and I've been hearing a lot of this from Democrats who I believe have their heads in the sand.

New Jersey is a big, populous state where a clear majority is registered Democratic. It has a Democratic governor at present.

The New York 23rd district is a single congressional district, 1 out of 435. It's had a Republican representative, since the 19th century.

Don't you think it's a bigger deal if New Jersey ousts an incumbent Democrat as governor than if a single congressional district in upstate New York keeps a Republican (albeit a much more conservative one) as its representative in the House?

Let me caution, though: Corzine hasn't lost yet. It's too close to call. But I think the Democrats' travails in New Jersey are a bad sign, already, even if he wins, and the party should take notice.

Posted 8:34 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Photo: Polls have N.J. governor and GOP challenger in a dead heat, with key variables being turnout and third candidate.

Posted 8:34 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Robert McCartney:

It's officially a GOP sweep in Virginia: The Post also has called the races for Bolling and Cuccinelli, as well as McDonnell.

Posted 8:42 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: McDonnell wins Virginia governor's race (Post, Nov. 3)

Posted 8:44 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Dallas, Tex.: Any report yet on the Maine vote on gay marriage?

Robert McCartney: Apparently there's no exit poll for the Maine vote on same-sex marriage. So we'll have to await actual results. So far only 2 percent are in, I'm told.

Posted 8:44 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Goshen, Ind.: How's the NY-23 race looking?

Robert McCartney: Polls don't close for 15 minutes in New York.

For those who haven't been following it, the New York 23rd district race has attracted tons of attention because much of the GOP base was dissatisfied with the moderate, pro-choice candidate nominated by the party. Conservative activists coalesced around a Conservative Party candidate. When it became clear that the Democrat was likely to win, because the GOP was split, the moderate official Republican candidate dropped out -- and endorsed the Democrat!

The whole thing has got grass-roots conservative activists excited at prospect that they can "take back" the Republican party from the establishment. Democrats are gleeful at the split within the Republicans.

I think it's kind of interesting, but, as I said before, not nearly as big a deal as what happens in Virginia and New Jersey.

Also, and I think this is crucial: Even if the hard-line conservative wins in the 23rd, the experience in Virginia suggests that is NOT the way for the GOP to win in contested states. McDonnell, though his roots are in the Christian conservative wing of the party, ran a campaign emphasizing his comparatively moderate stances on mainstream issues. He cast himself as a problem-solver, not a crusader. And he just won in a state where the Democrats have been racking up gains since Mark Warner won eight years ago.

As of tonight, Bob McDonnell is one of the hottest politicians in the Republican party. The guy in upstate New York is an asterisk.

Posted 8:51 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Washington, D.C.: I think many independents voted for McDonnell over Deeds because McDonnell is the better candidate. I say that as a staunch Democrat; although I don't have a horse in this race (not a Virginia resident), I'd be hard pressed to say what Deeds brought to the table for Virginia that made him better than McDonnell.

Robert McCartney: Yes, I think McDonnell was clearly a stronger candidate than Deeds. McDonnell ran a focused, disciplined campaign. He responded effectively to the crisis when the controversy over the 1989 master's thesis erupted. In particular, he answered questions about it for two days, and then stopped. And he ran a lot of ads quoting women saying they knew he supported working women. That took the sting out of his own words, in the thesis written for a double degree in public policy and law at Pat Robertson's university, that working mothers were detrimental to society.

Posted 8:55 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Centreville, Va.: Hi! Thanks for taking the time to chat with all us political groupies. Election nights are always exciting. Just wondering if you know if there are any projections or exit polls for the truly-local questions such as bond issues and such?

Robert McCartney: Sorry, exit polls are expensive and we don't pay for them on bond issues and similar ballot measures.

Posted 8:55 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Live Stream: Deeds Speech

Posted 8:57 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: An independent move to GOP (The Fix, Nov. 3)

Posted 9:02 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Fairfax, Va.: Votes tallied so far have McDonnell, Bolling, and Cuccinelli up between 15 and 20 points. I know the races are decided, but at the end of the night, how big a win are we talking about here, do you think?

Robert McCartney: It's too early to tell, but every final poll that I saw had McDonnell ahead by double-digits. I see no reason to doubt that will be the case. It's a big win for the Republicans in Virginia.

Posted 9:06 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Photo: New York's 23rd Congressional District Democratic candidate Bill Owens, left, thanks volunteers at a campaign HQ.

Posted 9:08 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Falls Church, Va.: Considering that President Obama personally campaigned for Deeds, does his loss damage the president too?

Robert McCartney:

This is a big question on people's minds, and I think it's important to give it a nuanced answer.

As I said earlier, I think it does hurt Obama somewhat that the Republicans swept the top three offices in Virginia. He came to Virginia twice to campaign with Deeds. It suggests his personal popularity is not a big help to state-level candidates, when he isn't on the ballot himself. His choice for head of the Democratic National Committee, Gov. Tim Kaine, has presided over a massive loss in his home state.

However, to the extent that the Virginia result means anything about the national political climate, I think it's more a negative for the Democrats in general in Washington, rather than for Obama as an individual. He is popular personally. The vote was a repudiation to some extent of Democratic policies coming out of Washington -- and especially a signal of concern about the economy, jobs, deficit spending and 'big government' programs.

Moreover, and this is crucial: Most voters said Obama had nothing to do with their vote, according to exit polls. In The Post's last poll of Virginia voters, too, 70 percent said Obama would have nothing to do with their vote. Of the remainder, there was roughly equal division between those who liked Obama and those who disliked him.

Finally, and this is also crucial: In Virginia, the Democrats ran a weak candidate, and the Republicans ran a strong one. That was probably more important than anything involving Obama and the national Democratic party. But that doesn't mean the race doesn't have some bearing on the Democrats in Washington.

And, of course, if the Democrats keep the governship in New Jersey, then Obama can say it was a draw. And in the middle of tough economic times, that's not too shabby.

Posted 9:14 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Alexandria, Va.: RE: NY-23. While it's true that Hoffman is more conservative on social issues, what brought outside groups to challenge Scozzafava was her liberal positions on economic issues -- that's what brought the Club for Growth and the Tea Party people to promote Hoffman. To my knowledge, Hoffman has also campaigned on those issues. So, I don't think the NY-23 race is that wildly different from Virginia gov.

Robert McCartney:

I don't know if this is accurate, but it has the ring of authenticity. I confess I'm not an expert on the race in the 23rd congressional district in upstate New York. But I still think that whatever happened there, it's more important for the future of the Republican party in contested states that the Republican who just won in Virginia positioned himself as a moderate problem-solver rather than a culture warrior.

Posted 9:16 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Owings Mills, Md.: Do you favor the idea that a win by the conservative party in the 23rd NYS congressional district may spark an independent, third party movement across the U.S.?

Robert McCartney:

Do I, personally, favor that idea? No.

I think the two-party system, with all its flaws, has served the country well overall.

Posted 9:17 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Fairfax County, Va.: I haven't seen much discussion about what this sweep means for the political future of the current governor, Tim Kaine. Granted, he didn't run the Deeds campaign, but this is a state that voted for Obama last year, Kaine is also the party chairman and his chosen successor not only loses, he loses badly. He definitely doesn't have the Mark Warner touch, does he?

Robert McCartney: I think this is a considerable embarrassment for Kaine and unquestionably damages his legacy.

I also think he made a big mistake accepting the job of chairman of the DNC earlier this year. He instantly became a "part-time governor," and handed a talking point to the GOP.

At the fourth debate, McDonnell got a laugh by mentioning at one point that perhaps a problem facing the state would have been solved if it had a full-time governor.

On the other hand, he was an early and important supporter of Barack Obama. He's still chair of the party. He has a future in the Democratic party as long as Obama is in charge, and that's for at least 2 more years. If the economy improves, it could well be for 6 more years.

Posted 9:20 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Virginia State Attorney General elect Ken Cuccinelli holds a broom to celebrate the Republican sweep on Tuesday.

Posted 9:21 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Live Stream: Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling

Posted 9:24 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Ocean City, Md.: How would the governor's race be different, had Terry McAuliffe OR Brian Moran won the Democratic nomination?

Robert McCartney: This is a good question. I think Brian Moran would have lost badly, because he's more liberal than Deeds and showed no signs in the primary of being a better campaigner than Deeds.

McAuliffe couldn't have done much worse, and would have been a really interesting candidate. He would have been savaged, and justifiably, by the GOP as a carpetbagger who'd showed little interest in the past in Virginia issues despite having lived in McLean for a long time.

McAuliffe also could have been vulnerable to criticism of some financial dealings, including as a Democratic fundraiser.

But he is a colorful, larger-than-life personality, who knows how to rev up enthusiasm among Democrats. I think he probably still would have lost. His personal style would have been criticized as inappropriate for Virginia. It surely would have been a different kind of campaign.

Posted 9:25 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Photo: Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Virginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds makes a speech to supporters after losing the Virginia governor's race to Republican Bob McDonnell, at his election results event in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009. At far left is Deed's son, Gus Deeds. (AP)

Posted 9:26 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Robert McCartney:

The Post's story on the race says Deeds did really badly in Northern Virginia:

"Partial returns showed Deeds easily prevailing in comparatively liberal Arlington County, but barely topping McDonnell in sprawling Fairfax, while McDonnell held commanding leads in both Loudoun and Prince William counties. Obama, by contrast, won each of those counties in 2008."

This confirms the Republicans' hopes that they were going to wrest back the two fast-growing outer counties -- Loudoun and Prince William -- and narrow the Democrats' advantage in Fairfax.

Big question still to be answered: To what extent was the GOP win a result of depressed Democratic turnout, and to what extent did GOP actually persuade independents to switch from Democrat to Republican? That's important for the future, because presumably it would be easier to gin up bigger Democratic turnout with a stronger candidate, and in a national race, than it would be to persuade people to go back to the Democrats after having voted Republican.

Posted 9:29 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Live Stream: Bob McDonnell

Posted 9:38 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Montgomery County, Md.: You wrote:

McDonnell successfully tied Deeds to some policies of the national Democratic party that independent voters didn't like -- cap-and-trade, union card check, health reform.

I am a former political science professor and I now manage sample surveys. I'll betcha five hundred dollars that one in ten Virginia adults can tell you what "cap and trade" or "union card check" is. Economic anxiety, misgivings about public spending, and a weak Democatic likely took their toll, but the issues to which you point, sorry, no.

Robert McCartney:

If that's true, then Bob McDonnell wasted a lot of breath talking about those issues in just the terms I used: cap-and-trade and union card check. He talked about them in those words in the debates. He talked about them in stump speeches. So the guy who just won a landslide victory to become Virginia governor thinks those words resonate with Virginia voters.

Posted 9:40 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Robert McCartney: NBC projects Bloomberg wins reelection as mayor of New York. Totally expected.

Posted 9:41 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Washington, D.C.: When I was growing up, the governorship of Virginia was something that people valued and honored as much and sometimes more than the presidency of the United States. There were politicians in Virginia who would rather be governor than president, seriously. That's why I'm so amazed that Tim Kaine would be so foolish and immature as to take any position while serving as governor. I'm especially astounded that he would serve as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, which is a place that is so very different from Virginia at heart. Now, Kaine has led his national and state parties to humiliating defeats, and his focus on Virginia has probably cost Democrats a very winnable contest in New Jersey as well. Tim Kaine is such a disappointment.

Robert McCartney:

I think this underlines one of the many diadvantages of having a one-term limit for Virginia governors. Had Kaine been able to win reelection, he probably would have stayed in office rather than try to lock up his future by jumping ship to the DNC and national party politics in Washington.

(Of course, given that hypothesis, he wouldn't have been governor anyway -- because Mark Warner would have been reelected in 2005! But the point is still valid.)

Posted 9:43 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Wolftrap Precinct, Fairfax, Va.: Terry McAuliffe spent the gross national product of some small island nations to lose the Democratic primary. His best day on his campaign was his first one. Had he not been in the race, Moran would have run a much different campaign. Whether he could have beaten McDonnell -- a disciplined, focused campaigner -- is unknowable, but McAuliffe was the dog food the dogs won't eat.

Robert McCartney: Here's another perspective on whether Moran would have been a stronger candidate than McAuliffe.

Posted 9:43 p.m., 11.3.2009

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South Bend, Ind.: Two Catholic governors in a row for Virginia!

Robert McCartney:

Indeed.

Posted 9:44 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Photo: Virginia gubernatorial Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds delivers his concession speech at the Westin in Richmond, Va.

Posted 9:50 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Photo: Virginia Governor elect Bob McDonnell during their victory party at The Richmond Marriott Tuesday night...

Posted 9:53 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Falls Church, Va. : To paraphrase a quote from 2000 election, I just think that Virginia voters voted for McDonnell because they would rather have a "Latte" with McDonnell than Deeds. I voted for Deeds but knew that my vote was a drop in the bucket.

Robert McCartney:

Based on what I saw of the candidates, I think it'd be fine to have a latte with either one. McDonnell is focused and a bit intense, but he has a sense of humor. Deeds is friendly and outgoing, although he can seem absent-minded.

Posted 9:54 p.m., 11.3.2009

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D.C.: Should Maine vote No on 1 and same-sex marriage stays legal, what broader implications, if any, do you see from that? Just a liberal New England state voting for a liberal policy (just barely) or is it something more?

Robert McCartney: If Maine votes to keep same-sex marriage legal, it would be a very big deal because it'd be the first time that voters in a U.S. state endorsed same-sex marriage in a popular referendum.

While Maine is one of six states that currently allows same-sex marriage, all of them adopted it by court decision or legislative action rather than popular vote.

As you doubtless recall, California voters repealed same-sex marriage by popular vote.

Also, Maine isn't so liberal. It's got two Republican senators -- although they're pretty moderate.

So it'd be significant.

Posted 9:57 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Tampa, Fla.: Mr. McCartney do you think these election results will have any impact on the health care debate and vote?

Robert McCartney:

I don't think it'll have a big impact, but I think it could have some. It could add to moderate Democrats' and moderate Republicans' fears of vorting for a big expansion of a government program.

However, I think a lot of professional politicians are going to conclude that McDonnell won largely because he was a strong candidate who ran a smart campaign, and Deeds was the opposite. So that will mitigate any impact that this result has on the health care debate.

Posted 10:00 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Virginia Governor-elect Bob McDonnell and his family his wife Maureen (left)children-Jeanine, Cailin, Rachel, Bobby and Sean. during their victory party at The Richmond Marriott Tuesday night

Posted 10:00 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Anonymous: Do you think that it's all about the mantra of "change"? That's how Obama won, and that's what people want, not necessarily conservatism. Let's face it, the country is in turnmoil (at least economically), and voters will not choose the incumbent party.

Robert McCartney:

This is a very good point. A year ago, Obama and the Democrats promised hope and change after 8 years of GOP control of the White House. Now the Republicans are the party of change. Being the party of change is a pretty attractive proposition, when the economy has just started recovering from the sharpest contraction since the 1930s and unemployment continues to climb.

Posted 10:02 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Mechanicsville, Md.: I am an independent voter who is furious over runaway deficit spending by my elected officials. I have never been politically active until this year. I don't care if a Democrat or a Republican or an independent is elected as long as the status quo is abandoned. For me, it's the man and the message. What do you think it will take for our elected officials to get the message?

Robert McCartney:

As I have said, I think it will mean a lot if GOP wins governorship of New Jersey as well as Virginia. That will send a message.

However, while I fully understand people's concerns about deficit spending, we have to take account of the unusual economic conditions since the Wall Street collapse 14 months ago.

The explosion in deficit spending -- while an unfortunate mortgaging of our future -- may well have been the smart move in the past year in order to head off a more severe recession.

A year ago, some people were worrying about a new Great Depression. The big government spending has put a plug in that, at least for now. The economy is growing. There may be a double-dip recession. It could even become a depression. But a lot of smart economists think the big spending was appropriate, given the severe risk of a much worse downturn.

Posted 10:06 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Video: Creigh Deeds concedes Virginia gubernatorial race

Posted 10:11 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Republican New Jersey Gubernatorial hopeful Chris Christie exits the polling station after casting his vote, Nov.3, 2009 in Mendham, New Jersey. Christie is challenging incumbent Democrat John Corzine. (Getty Images)

Posted 10:15 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Interactive Governor Map

Posted 10:17 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Robert McCartney: NEWS BULLETIN: Associated Press calls New Jersey for the Republican, Chris Christie. If confirmed, this is indeed a debacle for the Democrats. Barack Obama, Tim Kaine and the rest of the national leadership have some explaining to do to their supporters.

Posted 10:25 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Fairfax, Va.: Now with two failed statewide bids, is Deeds essentially done in Virginia politics outside of Bath County?

Robert McCartney: Yes, I'd say Deeds's future statewide is pretty bleak. But by all accounts, he has been an effective, well-liked state senator. He can probably continue to have an effective and satisfying career in the Senate, if he chooses.

Posted 10:27 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Republican Sweep NJ, VA Governors Races (The Fix, Nov. 3)

Posted 10:30 p.m., 11.3.2009

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washingtonpost.com: News Alert10:22 PM EST Tuesday, November 3, 2009Christie defeats New Jersey Gov. Corzine.Republican Chris Christie defeats New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine.

Posted 10:34 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Robert McCartney:

It's official: The Post calls New Jersey for Christie, too.

This makes the results tonight much worse for Obama and the national Democrats.

The Democrats will try to spin this as a "local" result just as they'll spin Virginia as a "local" result owing to Deeds's missteps. They'll emphasize that Corzine was unpopular, because of high property taxes and some corruption scandals.

But it'll be much harder for Obama to distance himself from the N.J. result. First, he made three trips to New Jersey, during which he held five appearances with Corzine. (By contrast, he made two trips and two appearances with Deeds in Virginia.)

Voter registration is significantly more pro-Democratic in New Jersey than Virginia. Democrats in Virginia also benefited from the involvement of a third-party candidate, who diverted some of the anti-Corzine vote. Corzine had the advantages of incumbency.

Despite all of that, the Republican won. And the Republicans won huge in Virginia. Tough night for the Democrats, no matter how they spin it.

Posted 10:39 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Annandale, Va.: I think the trend to the Republicans in Virginia could be gleaned from the special elections held since last year. A long-term Democratic seat on the Fairfax Board went Republican. The Democrat candidate in Alexandria for the state lower house barely won. Something was percolating out there.

Robert McCartney: Interesting point.

Posted 10:39 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Vienna, Va.: How big a black eye will is be for the Post when Creigh Deeds loses the Virginia governor election by double digits? Obviously the Post went all out for Deeds's campaign, endorsing him in the primaries and the general and beating the "thesis-gate" story like a dead horse. Will there be any introspection or internal analysis at the Post about how they misjudged the mood in Virginia so badly?

Robert McCartney: It's not a black eye at all. Your comment misrepresents the situation in several respects.

1) The Post editorial page endorses the candidate it thinks is best. It doesn't worry about being in line with the mood of the state. (I have nothing to do with this process, by the way. I'm a columnist, and not associated with the editorial board at all.)

2) The editorial board has nothing to do with the news pages, which uncovered the thesis and wrote about it. I don't agree we overdid it, at all. It was a legitimate issue. It was of considerable concern to many voters. Had we found something equally controversial about Deeds, we would have covered it equally aggressively. Please recall that we aggressively covered the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and got a lot of grief from Democrats for doing so.

Posted 10:43 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Arlington, Va.: Obama worked his butt off for Corzine and Deeds. He was in New Jersey five times -- that's five times more than he's met with his general in Afghanistan. How can this not be a referendum on Obama?

Robert McCartney: Obama did not work his butt off for Deeds. He only came twice. He made Deeds wait for awhile to schedule the second trip. Also, and this is crucial, the White House stabbed him in the back with high-level leaks to The Post criticizing Deeds for running a bad campaign and not taking the White House's advice about how to run the race.

However, as I just explained at some length, I agree that the Virginia result is partly a referendum on Obama. Not exclusively, but partly. And the New Jersey result makes the election overall a clearcut rebuke to the president and the Democratic party.

Posted 10:50 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Richmond, Va.: The Democratic spin is that none of these astounding results are in any way a referendum on Obama.

Please, please tell me they really believe that. If they do, they're going to get crushed in 2010. Exit polls and focus groups have been clear: people like Obama, but on issue after issue simply do not trust him and the Democrats. If Obama does not understand these elections as a wakeup call -- and issue some course corrections -- then he's going to get punished too. How's he going to pass ObamaCare with moderate Democrats worried about their jobs?

Robert McCartney:

Don't get your hopes up. Regardless of what their spokesman say to the media, I think many Democrats know that these results are in part a referendum on Obama. Not entirely. But partly.

For the 2010 mid-term races, the most important thing will be: The Economy. If the economy is recovering, and, most importantly, if unemployment is dropping, then I predict the Democrats will retain control of both houses of Congress.

That scenario could be upset by big international setbacks, such as in Afghanistan (most likely), Iraq or Iran.

Democrats will also look bad if health reform dies, or if it is passed but is perceived as a flop.

Still, the economy will be the Big Thing in 2010.

That said, I think the Democrats need to take some lessons from tonight's debacle:

1) They need to run good candidates. Deeds came up short.

2) Figure out a way to get out the vote among African Americans and young people, even when Obama isn't on the ticket.

3) Don't try to coast on the legacy of past victories. In every election, there's a need to outline a new vision of a positive future. Deeds failed to do that in Virginia.

Posted 10:55 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Fairfax County, Va.: What do you, honestly, think you would have said if a Republican had told you as President Obama took office in January that the GOP would win the Virginia governorship by nearly 20 points?

Robert McCartney: Oh, I would have said it meant the Republicans ran a disciplined guy with a social conservative background who presented himself as a moderate, and the Democratic candidate gave a muddled answer about taxes and transportation in the press gaggle after the 2nd debate at the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce. Sure, I'd have said all that in January, with the benefit of my Ouija board.

Posted 10:57 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Chicago, Ill.: In the NY 23rd race, is it true that Republicans have won that seat since 1858? The late 1800 early 1900s Republicans were the more anti-slavery, anti-segregation folks and are in sharp contrast to the more recent anti civil rights, socially conservative southern Republicans of the post 1960s. How is it the people of NY 23rd have voted for the same party despite change of fundamental ideology?

Robert McCartney: I know the Republicans have won it going back to around the Civil War, but I'm not sure of the date.

I think this bunch in the 23rd district of upstate New York represent some vestiges of the socially moderate, "Rockefeller Republicans" who used to be a strong force in the GOP. They're fiscally conservative but socially moderate.

So it's not such a big conundrum. Each party has many ideological nooks and crannies. There are a lot of Democrats who are strongly pro-gun rights, for instance.

Posted 11:00 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Fairfax, Va.: A clear cut rebuke of the president and the Democratic Party? Jon Corzine wasn't exactly the most popular guy coming into this campaign. Add in the fact of high property taxes, his turnpike proposal, and the near economic collapse (and being a former Goldman Sachs exec certainly couldn't have helped Corzine's image) and he had an uphill battle against that Springsteen-loving Chris Christie.

Robert McCartney:

I don't know how many times I'm going to have to go into this.

Yes, Corzine was unpopular. But he did not have an "uphill battle" against Christie. He was ahead in a lot of the polls not too long ago.

New Jersey party registration is strongly pro-Democratic. He was an incumbent. Obama went there three times. Corzine ran Obama's image in many of his ads.

Obama cast his lot with Corzine, and got whipped. It's a rebuke of Obama and the Democratic party, TO SOME EXTENT. It's not ONLY a rebuke of Obama and the Democratic party. But it's PARTLY a rebuke.

Is this so difficult to understand?

The Democrats just LOST the governships of TWO MAJOR STATES. They lost them ONE YEAR after sweeping to victory in national elections.

How is this NOT a rebuke of the Democratic party?

Memo to Democratic partisans: Don't be in denial. Learn from the lessons of reality.

I mean, really.

Posted 11:05 p.m., 11.3.2009

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Vienna, Va.: No this is not your Dad or Mom -- you've been at this for four hours, and even though I don't agree with many of the opinions you express in your column, tonight's chat has been civil and interesting. Thanks to you and the Post for the back-and-forth. Kudos.

Robert McCartney:

Thanks very much for this generous comment. I am indeed going to sign off now, and thanks to all for reading and participating.

Some final tidbits:

-- With more than half the precincts reporting in the now-notorious 23rd congressional district in upstate New York, the Democrat Owens is narrowly ahead of the Republican/Conservative Hoffman.

-- With 23 percent of the vote in Maine, CNN says it's 50-50 over the same-sex marriage referendum.

-- There'll be more Washington Post Web chats on all these results tomorrow morning (Wednesday): at 10 a.m. with ace Richmond politics reporters Anita Kumar and Roz Helderman, who've been following the McDonnell-Deeds race very closely; and at 11 a.m. with National politics writer Michael Fletcher. Tune in then!

Posted 11:11 p.m., 11.3.2009

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