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National Mood Likely Reflected In Virginia Gubernatorial Race

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Whichever party takes over the Executive Mansion in Richmond this year may be riding high for next year's midterms.
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Whichever party takes over the Executive Mansion in Richmond this year may be riding high for next year's midterms.

It may feel like the campaigns just wrapped up, but the focus is already shifting to Virginia's gubernatorial elections, scheduled for later this year. The race may end up saying something about the national mood moving into 2013.

Then-Sen. Barack Obama stunned many people when he won Virginia in his 2008 race for the White House. He also raised hopes of the state's Democrats. The honeymoon was short lived, however, as Bob McDonnell was swept into the governor's mansion the following year.

The Republican's 2009 win was read by many analysts as turning the tides in Republican's favor, and the party went on to smash Democrats in the 2010 midterm election. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) expects this year's race to be different. 

"The tea party element of the Republican Party, which I think peaked in 2010, has been going down ever since, including in Virginia," says Connolly. "And I think this election will give Virginians the opportunity to render their judgment on whether that decline will continue."

The tea party has their candidate in Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. He's been an outspoken opponent of the Obama Administration's environmental policies, and the president's health care law, which is an asset, according to Virginia Republican Morgan Griffith.

"Ken will have the opportunity of running when people start to see that the system is a lot more expensive than what people were told it was going to be," Cuccinelli says.

On the other side of the ticket is Democrat Terry McAuliffe. He's a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. His failed 2009 gubernatorial bid left a bad taste in the mouths of many Democrats. Campaign analyst Larry Sabato says both front runners are polarizing.

"You've got a lot of opposition to both of them," Sabato says.

There's also speculation Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling will jump in the race as an Independent, which Sabato says could be a game changer.

"This could be a late-developing race rather than an early-developing race," Sabato says. "Sometimes they're like that."

However the race goes on, Sabato says he doubts the race will be as nationally focused as the last contest was.

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