Just In: Republicans have wrested political control of Virginia from the Democrats as independent voters swung behind the GOP, a troubling sign for President Barack Obama and his party heading into an important midterm election year. New Jersey is deciding whether to stick with unpopular Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine; results are not yet in.Republican Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell’s victory in Virginia over Democrat R. Creigh Deeds was a triumph for a GOP looking to rebuild after being booted from power in national elections in 2006 and 2008. It also was a setback for the White House in a swing state that was a crucial part of Obama’s electoral landslide just a year ago. The president had personally campaigned for Deeds.
Independents _ the crown jewel of elections because they often determine outcomes – were a critical part of the diverse coalition that carried the president to victory in Virginia and across the country. But, in the midst of a recession, still early in Obama’s term, they fled from Democrats in a state where the economy trumped all.
Early returns showed that by a 2-1 margin McDonnell was winning rapidly growing, far-flung Washington, D.C., suburbs – places like Loudoun and Prince William counties – that Republicans historically have won but that Obama prevailed in last fall by winning over swing voters.
Interviews with voters leaving polling stations in Virginia were filled with reasons for Democrats to be concerned and for Republicans to be optimistic.
The exit polls showed that nearly a third of voters described themselves as independents and they preferred the Republican by almost a 2-1 margin over the Democrat one year after breaking heavily toward Obama. The surveys also indicated that the Democrats may have had difficulty turning out their base, including the swarms of first-time minority and youth voters whom Obama attracted as part of his coalition.
More than four in 10 voters in Virginia said their view of Obama factored into their choice on Tuesday, and those voters roughly split between expressing support and opposition for the president. People who said they disapprove of Obama’s job performance voted overwhelmingly Republican, and those who approve of the president favored Deeds, the Democrat.