Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s victory in the Virginia gubernatorial race was narrower than many expected, and even though he hammered tea party Republicans for weeks, Wednesday he introduced a transition team led by Democrats and Republicans.
“You look at the folks who came out and voted yesterday, they really want leadership that is bipartisan,” McAuliffe said. “They want results.”
Political observers see other messages in the Virginia results that will now guide both parties in 2014 contests. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's loss isn’t all bad news for Republicans. He almost overcame an enormous fundraising disadvantage by making Obamacare the key issue late in the campaign.
“And I think you're going to find a lot of congressional Republicans look at this race and say, Here's a guy outspent by $15 million and almost pulled it off at the end despite these polls largely because he started focusing on the problems of Obamacare,” political analyst Robert Holsworth said.
As McAuliffe moves ahead with his transition, Virginia Republicans will be doing some soul-searching. After Tuesday's election, Democrats have now claimed four of five statewide seats. One problem: Many GOP business leaders refused to fund Ken Cuccinelli's tea party-supported bid.
“Very, very interestingly today, someone like Rush Limbaugh is blaming the Cuccinelli defeat not on Cuccinelli, not on Democrats, but on the Republican establishment for sitting on their hands,” Holsworth said.
Former State Sen. John Chichester, a longtime Virginia Senate Republican leader now on McAuliffe's transition team, said it's time for Virginia's party leaders to reassess its platform.
“I think that the takeaway, the should-be takeaway, is that we’ve got to go into a huddle and we’ve got to rebuild ourselves in a new philosophy that’s more inclusive,” he said.
Democrats in Virginia learned they can duplicate a winning formula in the commonwealth by racking up big margins in northern Virginia and the other metro areas.
“Terry McAuliffe was essentially able to duplicate Barack Obama’s performance in Virginia,” Holsworth said. “He won in the same places, the big metropolitan areas. He lost the major, big land masses in Virginia, but all the places where we had high population, high growth, Terry McAuliffe still did well.”
McAuliffe said he'll govern by reaching out to all groups. He believes by electing him voters sent a message: “Let’s get this show on the road. We’re sick of the fighting, we’re sick of the partisanship; we need to get things done.”
In one of his first executive orders as governor, McAuliffe will address the ethics scandal that’s plagued his predecessor. He'll impose a $100 gift ban on himself and his family and immediately set up an independent commission to deal with ethics reform.
McAuliffe says he'll also issue an executive order that bans discrimination in the state workplace based on sexual orientation.
The governor-elect said he's already begun calling Republicans and Democrats in the Virginia General Assembly. He's requested a meeting with House Speaker William Howell. Thursday he will head to his future home -- the governor's mansion -- to have lunch with Gov. Bob McDonnell. But in response to a reporter's question, McAuliffe said there is one high-profile Republican he hasn't spoken with yet. He's received no phone calls from GOP opponent Ken Cuccinelli.