Republicans in Virginia did not have a lot to cheer about on Election Day when it came to the results of the presidential election and the race for U.S. Senate.
But they should cheer up. After all, they do have the Virginia Curse. And that augurs well for GOP chances in the 2013 statewide elections.
What’s that — never heard of The Curse? Well, it goes something like this:
Since 1976, the party that wins the White House has lost the Virginia governor’s race the following year. Pundits have tried to explain it, and politicians can’t deny it.
Republican George W. Bush was elected in 2000 and 2004. Virginians elected Democrat Mark R. Warner governor in 2001 and Democrat Tim Kaine governor in 2005.
Barack Obama was first elected in 2008. In 2009, Virginians elected Republican Bob McDonnell governor.
Looking ahead to 2013, Obama’s re-election would appear to give an edge to Virginia Republicans attempting to hold onto the governor’s mansion next year. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli are vying for the Republican nomination, which the party will decide in a convention next year. But neither man was ready to count the curse as an asset on the path to GOP victory in 2013.
“The effect on Virginia’s governor race will depend on what goes on in Washington and people’s reaction to it,” Cuccinelli said.
“It will take some time to unfold. We’re going to focus on growing the economy and creating jobs regardless of what’s going on in Washington,” he said.
Bolling spokeswoman Taylor Thornley spun the issue of a curse into a question of the candidate, not the party.
“We’re not inclined to put much stock into that,” she said. “We think it all depends on whether we nominate an electable candidate for governor,” she said, reprising a Bolling talking point that he, not the higher-profile attorney general and tea party favorite, has a broader appeal to independents and moderates in a general election.
Democrat Terry McAuliffe — the former Democratic National Committee chairman turned green energy entrepreneur and all-but-declared candidate for governor in 2013, would appear to be on the wrong side of history when it comes to the Curse.
But that isn’t stopping him from making the rounds with prominent Virginia Democrats less than 24 hours after Obama’s victory, carrying the message that he’s all in. The back-channel public relations push would appear to up the ante on a decision on 2013 by Virginia’s most popular Democrat — Warner, the U.S. senator who has been contemplating a bid to return to the Executive Mansion.
Warner told reporters on Tuesday that he would make a decision on a possible gubernatorial rerun by Thanksgiving. He is also said to be weighing a presidential bid in 2016.
Some folks would do anything to avoid the Curse.
University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato doesn’t believe in curses. “I don’t believe in ghosts either,” says Sabato. “But I do think there are historical tendencies that can apply and this is one of them.
Sabato said there could be a natural “give-back, or kick-back or bounce-back” that comes after a presidential election followed by an off-year election, and Virginia and New Jersey are the only states to elect a governor following a presidential election year.