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Analysis: Looking Ahead After Decisive Election Days in Virginia, Maryland, D.C.

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Democrats won big in Virginia, Gov. Martin O'Malley had a big night in Maryland, and the D.C. voters bring a new voice to the D.C. Council. Breaking down this momentous week is Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney, speaking with WAMU anchor Matt McCleskey.

What do wins by President Obama and now Senator-elect Tim Kaine mean for politics in the Commonwealth moving forward?

"I think it provides us with a crystal clear analysis about how politics have been working in Virginia. People have been saying it's a purple state. I think it's more specific to say that every four years it's very blue in statewide races like this one for the presidency and the U.S. Senate. And then it's red in the years in-between. Remember, the GOP won three straight off-year elections in '09, '10 and '11 for the governorship and the state legislature. The reason for that is that in presidential years like this one, the electorate is much larger and more Democratic, largely because more young people and minorities turn out to vote."

"So the challenge here for the two parties is that in presidential years, the Republicans have to move to the center if they're going to win Virginia for themselves in the presidential race and for the senate races. They'll have to move to the center on social issues and immigration, especially. The Democrats' challenge is the mirror image of that. They either need to find a way to get more supporters out in off years or move to the center in off years, especially on budget and economic issues, where Republicans have an edge on those issues."

Governor O'Malley saw each of the ballot questions he was supporting approved. A pretty good week for the governor, wouldn't you say?

"It was a huge week for O'Malley in Maryland. He gambled big and won on social issues. No state had ever approved same-sex marriage or the DREAM Act by popular referendum. He backed both of them. He committed his personal prestige to both very publicly, and they both won. So this helps him create a legacy. It could help him a lot if he runs for national office. It appeals to key Democrat constituencies. He also committed big to expanding casino gambling and won there. It's worth mentioning that these are not slam dunks. Maryland is very Democratic, but same-sex marriage and gambling only won by 4 percentage points. So that was close, and I think his personal involvement made the difference there. For him, it clears the decks for him to focus on some other stuff in his last couple years of his term as governor. Wind power is one thing he's pushed for as governor, I think he'd like to come back to transportation, and getting that hospital built in Prince George's."

Voters ousted incumbent council member Michael Brown and elected  independent David Grosso. What's his win say about the mood of the electorate?

"I think we're unquestionably seeing a backlash against corruption and ethics problems in the district and also the growing political strength of new residents there. This is the second straight election where a newcomer has won after campaigning strong on ethics and sort of providing a fresh approach to district politics. The other one was, of course, Kenyan McDuffie in Ward 5, and now David Grosso won the at-large seat, toppling the very well-known figure in Michael Brown in doing so. I think that we're getting a critical mass for ethics and accountability on the council."

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