The premier election of 2017 might metal Democrats’ spines Tuesday evening — or break their hearts.
A win within the tight, carefully watched Virginia governor’s race between Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie would rebadure the social gathering that it may win mbadive campaigns once more and provides it momentum heading into the 2018 midterms. But a defeat — particularly after Northam led public polling all through the marketing campaign in a state President Donald Trump misplaced final yr — can be an enormous psychological blow to a Democratic Party nonetheless reeling from the 2016 presidential election. As an additional intestine punch, a Gillespie win would possible put a whopping 27th state authorities below Republican management.
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Democrats are overwhelmingly favored to take again the governorship in New Jersey, the place Gov. Chris Christie is wildly unpopular and has dragged down Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno in her race towards Democrat Phil Murphy.
The polls shut at 7 p.m. Eastern in Virginia and eight p.m. in New Jersey. Here are POLITICO’s 5 issues to observe as Northam battles Gillespie and Murphy takes on Guadagno:
Northam’s residence turf
Democrats and Republicans alike are pointing to the Hampton Roads area in southeastern Virginia as key to Northam’s benefit in public polls, which he holds on to regardless of a late surge by Gillespie. The Northam marketing campaign has been working with outdoors teams to prove African-American voters. Republicans, together with a bunch led by former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, are spending $50,000 on literature and radio and digital advertisements aiming to discourage African-Americans from backing Northam. Hampton Roads makes up roughly 20 p.c of the voters.
Another potential benefit is Northam’s roots on the agricultural Eastern Shore, together with his residence county of Accomack, which historically leans Republican. Democrats badume Northam will enhance on his social gathering’s efficiency within the county, and presumably even win it.
Gillespie’s southwestern power
Rural areas have been shifting towards the GOP for years. But even earlier than Trump accelerated the development, Gillespie’s surprising close to win in a 2014 Senate marketing campaign was a giant warning signal for Democrats. Gillespie practically beat Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, who owned southwestern Virginia in his earlier elections, due to mbadive wins in county after county.
Gillespie is virtually sure to hold the area once more in 2017. The query Republicans have is whether or not Gillespie’s institution credentials and lengthy historical past as a lobbyist will stop him from reaching Trump’s heights. (Trump misplaced Virginia by 5 factors final yr.)
Gillespie’s late play within the southwest has been to spotlight an advert made by Latino Victory Fund, a pro-Northam group that depicted a Gillespie supporter in a pickup truck chasing down immigrant youngsters. The Gillespie marketing campaign created its personal 30-second spot saying Democrats “disdain” conservative voters, and it aired about 300 instances in Southwest Virginia markets over the weekend, in accordance with Advertising Analytics, as Gillespie tries to inspire folks to vote towards Northam on Tuesday.
Not going nationwide in Northern Virginia
Both campaigns have largely shunned nationalizing the Virginia governor’s race, even in vote-rich Northern Virginia, the place the president is broadly unpopular and Hillary Clinton crushed him within the 2016 election. After repeatedly calling Trump a “narcissistic maniac” in the course of the Democratic main, Northam performed down his criticism of the president in the course of the normal. He aired advertisements linking Gillespie to Trump on training coverage — however Northam additionally mentioned he would work with Trump if it will profit Virginia.
If Northam doesn’t maintain on to his lead, count on progressive teams and different Democrats to query why the Democrat didn’t take a tougher line towards the president, given how badly Trump misplaced Northern Virginia in final yr’s marketing campaign.
Does Trump-style campaigning work in blue states like New Jersey?
After failing for months to get throughout her message about reducing property taxes, New Jersey’s Republican nominee determined to borrow a web page from the Trump playbook. Down within the polls by double digits, Guadagno started hammering Murphy final month over his pledge to guard undocumented immigrants and make New Jersey a “sanctuary state” — echoing related strains by Gillespie in Virginia.
Guadagno went all-in on the technique, talking in graphic element about crimes dedicated by undocumented immigrants and releasing an advert that mentioned Murphy would have the backs of “deranged murderers.”
It was an uncommon transfer in New Jersey, the place there are 800,000 extra registered Democrats than Republicans. While it hasn’t moved the needle — public opinion polls nonetheless present a 14-point margin — the strategy badumes a really low turnout on Tuesday, and is designed to drive the bottom to get out and vote. Some Democrats do concede privately that the election may very well be a lot nearer than polls counsel — maybe single digits. Should Guadagno pull off an upset, and even slim the margin to a couple factors, she can have set a brand new potential course for different statewide candidates in future years.
The Christie impact
Christie is leaving workplace with the bottom approval ranking for a governor in New Jersey historical past — 14 p.c in a current ballot.
Guadagno spent the previous yr or so making an attempt to distance herself from the governor, even after spending some eight years as his loyal lieutenant. But voters aren’t so fast to dismiss the Christie hyperlink, with polls exhibiting he is been an actual drag on Guadagno’s candidacy.
After the election, ought to opinion polls show appropriate, the governor’s workplace and the whole 120-seat Legislature can be managed by Democrats for the primary time since 2010. Suddenly, the social gathering in energy would not have the ability to blame Christie for the state’s deep structural issues — from an extremely underfunded retirement advantages system and a troubled transportation community to an economic system that had lagged the nation.