Virginia got a lot redder tonight. A state that went for Obama just one year ago and has had a Democratic governor for the past eight years did an about face tonight by overwhelming electing Republicans to the highest offices in the Commonwealth: Bob McDonnell for governor, Bill Bolling for lieutenant governor and Ken Cuccinelli for attorney general.
Let's take a closer look at the Virginia State races:
GOVERNOR: The Republican candidate and current Attorney General Bob McDonnell ran against Democratic State Senator Creigh Deeds. There was no third party candidate. Bob McDonnell ran a textbook campaign. His campaign was on message, disciplined and effective. He stuck to the issues that concern most Virginians and he looked like a governor. McDonnell concentrated on the economy; he talked about creating and keeping jobs in the state, being fiscally responsible and tackling the transportation challenges in congested Northern Virginia.
Creigh Deeds' campaign was not focused and all over the map. He was a poor communicator and campaigner. He was hard to pin down when it came to explaining what exactly what he stood for. Finally, he was wishy washy with regard to increasing taxes or cutting spending to grow the economy.
President Obama had no coattails for Deeds -- in spite of the numerous personal appearances and television ads in his behalf.
The Deeds campaign paled against the well-oiled machine that McDonnell was able to build and maintain throughout the entire campaign cycle. If McDonnell is as effective a governor as he was a campaigner then he is someone to watch on the national stage in the very near future. There was not a single part of the Virginia that did not turn out for McDonnell. He resonated in rural, suburban and urban Virginia.
LT. GOVERNOR: Bill Bolling, who is currently the Commonwealth's incumbent lieutenant governor in Virginia made a strategic move early on not to challenge Bob McDonnell for the Republican nomination. Instead, he supported McDonnell early on and the two men ran as a team.
This allowed McDonnell and Bolling to run as a team. -- In Virginia the lieutenant governor and the governor run independently. The decks are clear now for Bolling to run for governor in four years. Bolling won handily tonight. His opponent was Democrat Jody Wagner a former member of Governor Kaine's cabinet who served as Virginia's finance secretary from 2006-08. Ms. Wagner had little name recognition in Virginia prior to entering the race and faced with a weak top of the ticket for governor really never had a chance against the incumbent.
ATTORNEY GENERAL: Republican State Senator Ken Cuccinelli had an easy win over State Delegate Steve Shannon. The issues that made a difference in this race were state's rights, gun control, government spending, immigration and crime. Cuccinelli is a strong conservative with bright-line positions that are clear and defined. His opponent never got out of attack mode and spent more time attacking Cuccinelli than advancing his own agenda. Cuccinelli, like McDonnell, enjoyed a lead over Shannon for most of the campaign.
The message delivered by voters tonight in Virginia is pretty clear. -- Republicans are alive and well. If Republicans field good candidates, have a clear message and execute a well-thought out and comprehensive campaign plan, they will win. It is as simple as that.
Bradley A. Blakeman is a professor of Public Policy and Politics at Georgetown University. He served as Deputy Assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-2004.