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For those who stupidly insist Virginia election was a referendum on Obamacare, here's a news flash: Obamacare won, 48-45.
@geoffgarin
Please, more spin on how a result showed opposition to Obamacare, when said result will likely result in expansion of Obamacare. #virginia
@AlecMacGillis
Ezra Klein:
So Obamacare almost lost the election for the Democrats despite being almost exactly as popular as it was in 2012? That's hard to believe. If anything, the surprise of the Virginia election is that Obamacare's approval was as high as 45 percent.

This has been a persistent finding of the polls on Obamacare: It's basically been exactly as popular -- and unpopular -- since it passed. The problems of its first month have had basically no effect on its standing in the polls. In fact, if anything, there's been a slight uptick in its popularity.

Jon Ward:
The claim by [GOP pollster Glen] Bolger and by many Republicans now, in the wake of a much narrower than expected, 2.5-point McAuliffe win on Tuesday, is that the numbers closed in in the last two weeks as Cuccinelli honed in on Obamacare. He stressed his early opposition to the law in 2010 as attorney general, just as the law kicked in, suffering massive implementation problems.

The takeaway, then, for some, is that Obamacare became a millstone that almost dragged McAuliffe from a sure victory to an epic collapse.

"Despite being outspent by an unprecedented $15 million, this race came down to the wire because of Obamacare," Cuccinelli said in his concession speech Tuesday night.

The problem is, there's not much evidence for this.

Remember the old saw that "in politics, if you're explaining you're losing"? Apparently the Republican pollster version is since they're losing, they're explaining.

More policy and politics below the fold.

Our final VA poll, finished last Thursday, was 45% McAuliffe 42% Cuccinelli, 5% Sarvis.  There was no last minute tightening of the race.
@geoffgarin
Huffpollster:
The McAuliffe campaign was not surprised. Democratic pollster Geoff Garin, who conducted the campaigns polling, shared the following comments with reporters on Wednesday via email: "Our final poll on Thursday was 45% McAuliffe, 42% Cuccinelli, 5% Sarvis, so this outcome is pretty close to what we expected. The poll before that was plus 4 for McAuliffe. In fact, with the exception of the a bump up during the shutdown, Terry’s lead from mid-summer on was always in the 2--4 range. I was confident that Terry would win, because his lead was consistent and stable throughout our polling. But this was always bound to be a close race, given the structure of the electorate. Our terrific Blue Labs analytics team, which conducted modeling calls on an ongoing basis, consistently modeled this as a 2-point race."

Why believe Garin? - HuffPollster spoke to Garin on the Friday before the election. In a conversation that he requested be kept off the record, Garin offered the same message: that their polling had consistently shown McAuliffe leading by 4 percentage points or less. Asked at the time, whether he would make an "over or under" bet on the 7 percent McAuliffe lead being shown by the polling averages, he was emphatic: "The under!" (Garin has subsequently given us permission to reveal details of that conversation).

Hmmm. Who'd you rather have polling for you?

Paul Waldman:

Disastrous Obamacare Rollout Leaves Opinions on Law Weirdly Unchanged

It went as bad as conservatives could have wished, but the public's opinion on the law is just where it was before.

Bottom line: There are thousands of votes worth of errors in #VAAG count, but at the moment they're balancing out: https://t.co/...
@Redistrict
Dave Wasserman of the nonpartisan Cook Report (aka @Redistrict) projects that after accounting for tally errors the Republican Obenshain has a 651 vote lead in the VA AG race before provisional ballots are counted.

Two very good looks at Chris Christie:

Nate Cohn:

Congressional Republicans were never going to be the agents of the Republican “rebrand.” It was always about 2016: The one moment when Republicans could nominate a candidate with a new message, and a big enough platform to change, suppress, or even Sister Souljah the party’s most extreme voices. And on that front, the last few months have gone deceptively well for Republicans. Ted Cruz unintentionally tried to disqualify himself in a manner that I would have only guessed was possible for a candidate intentionally trying to disqualify themself. Marco Rubio, who entered the year as the candidate most likely to lull Republicans into walking the plank, hasn’t done himself any favors, either. With rivals faltering, Chris Christie momentarily stands alone. Tonight, he will win reelection by such a wide margin that even the party’s most conservative forces will be tempted to give him another look. But it's highly unclear whether he can win the nomination, or whether anyone can repeat his success.
Steve Kornacki:
NJ's governor sees an old path to the White House. But there's a difference: Bush didn't contend with a Tea Party.
NY Times:
Leaders of the Republican establishment, alarmed by the emergence of far-right and often unpredictable Tea Party candidates, are pushing their party to rethink how it chooses nominees and advocating changes they say would result in the selection of less extreme contenders.

The push comes as the national Republican Party is grappling with vexing divisions over its identity and image, and mainstream leaders complain that more ideologically-driven conservatives are damaging the party with tactics like the government shutdown.

The debate intensified on Wednesday after Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the deeply conservative Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, lost a close race in which Democrats highlighted his opposition to abortion in almost all circumstances, his views on contraception and comments in which he seemed to liken immigration policy to pest control.

The party leaders pushing for changes want to replace state caucuses and conventions, like the one that nominated Mr. Cuccinelli, with a more open primary system that they believe will draw a broader cross-section of Republicans and produce more moderate candidates.

WaPo:
Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe’s unexpectedly slim victory in Virginia set off an explosion of recriminations among Republicans on Wednesday, and rather than settling the battle between the GOP’s tea party and business factions, the election appears to have deepened the internal divide.
And this is a surprise? The tea party can't read polls and can't read election returns. News flash: the tea party IS the Republican party. The civil war continues. Chris Christie, call your office.
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