Virginia governor’s race was not a referendum on Obamacare
On this morning after the Virginia gubernatorial election, some folks are arguing that the race between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli (above, left and right respectively) was closer than most polls had indicated simply because of the controversy regarding Obamacare.
“This race came down to the wire because of Obamacare,” Cuccinelli said in his concession speech. “That message will go out across America tonight.”
But several questions arise. For starters, if the election was a referendum on Obamacare, it would seem that Obamacare won, right? Is that the message Cuccinelli thinks should go out across America? And more importantly, there are reasons to doubt that the election was a referendum on Obamacare after all, as we see HERE:
Indeed, it’s hard to look at last night’s results as a definitive declaration of public opinion on Obamacare either way — whether for or against. The only conclusion I think you can begin to draw from the results is that an absolutist position against the law doesn’t command sufficient support to win statewide in Virginia, a state that is widely seen by observers as a key indicator of national demographic and political trends. The law is probably still on probation with many voters, but the law’s most ardent foes are wrong — they just don’t represent a majority or mainstream position.
According to the exit polls, only 27 percent of Virginia voters saw the health law as the top issue, and among them, only a bare plurality (49-45) supported Cuccinelli. Far more (45 percent) named the economy.
It’s true 53 percent in the exit polling oppose Obamacare, versus 46 percent who support it. But as we’ve seen, the more fine grained national polling has steadily revealed a small but non-trivial percentage in the opposing camp who disapproves because it doesn’t go far enough, meaning the GOP position is a minority one. (Some pundits simply refuse to entertain these nuances of public opinion, but they exist.) National polls also show that disapproval, while real, doesn’t translate into support for getting rid of the law entirely, and that majorities want to give it a chance.
Something approximating this may have been on display in Virginia, where Cuccinelli supported repeals and was slow to distance himself from the national GOP’s push to defund the law. Of those who oppose the law, 11 percent of voters peeled off and voted for McAuliffe. We can’t know for sure the role the law played in determining the votes of that 11 percent…