It was what they call an off-year in the election cycle – with only a few high-profile races nationwide. The highlights:
– New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie coasted to re-election victory over state Sen. Barbara Buono and immediately positioned himself as a possible presidential candidate in 2016.
– Former Democratic Party fundraiser Terry McAuliffe narrowly defeated Tea Party-backed Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the Virginia governor's race.
– In the New York City mayoral race, Democrat Bill de Blasio – who the New York Times says "transformed himself from a little-known occupant of an obscure office into the fiery voice of New York’s disillusionment with a new gilded age" – easily defeated Republican Joseph Lhota.
Those headlines were not much for pundits to chew on, but they made a thin meal of it anyway, suggesting that the Christie victory – and Cuccinelli's loss – says something about how GOP voters might trend in the 2014 midterms and the 2016 race for the White House.
CNN examines how the Christie victory will shape the 2016 presidential race: "The exit polls appear to bolster Christie's case that he's among the most electable of the potential GOP White House hopefuls heading into 2016."
Political analysts have said the Christie race was about more than just Christie – suggesting it was a referendum on the tea party. The Washington Post noted, "[Christie] and his advisers hope that the outcome will send a message to a divided Republican Party about how it can win in places where its presidential candidates have been losing."
Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote on Election Night that "Christie and tea party favorite Ken Cuccinelli II ... could not have been more different in their campaign approaches. Christie stressed bipartisanship and touted his state’s ability to avoid gridlock that has paralyzed Washington."
The Washington Post's political columnist Chris Cillizza put it this way: "Christie’s win, contrasted with Cuccinelli’s loss, could hardly provide a starker contrast for the GOP and a clearer message about how it wins in the future. Exit polls showed Christie winning among women and running even with his Democratic opponent among Latinos. If Republicans could emulate that in other states, they would win just about all of them."
As for NYC, the New York Times noted that the de Blasio win "amounted to a forceful rejection of the hard-nosed, business-minded style of governance that reigned at City Hall for the past two decades and a sharp leftward turn for the nation’s largest metropolis." The newspaper continued, "The lopsided outcome represented the triumph of a populist message over a formidable résumé in a campaign that became a referendum on an entire era, starting with Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and ending with the incumbent mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg."