Election Day is here, with a split verdict expected in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races. But even though Gov. Chris Christie (R) and Terry McAuliffe (D) are heavy favorites, respectively, there are many unanswered questions we’ll be tracking.
— New Jersey: Will Christie hit the magic 60% mark? He’s above it in two public polls released this week, below it in two others. If he does, it would provide the governor with a powerful talking point looking ahead to 2016. As important: Will Christie top 40% among Hispanic voters, a key voting bloc in New Jersey, and a high-water benchmark for George W. Bush‘s 2004 presidential campaign? Finally, will New Jersey Republicans pick up the five state Senate seats necessary to take over the upper chamber? It’s a long-shot, but read GovBeat’s Reid Wilson for the five races to watch — where the GOP needs a clean sweep.
— Virginia: McAuliffe is leading, but will he sweep the suburban strongholds? Pay close attention to Prince William, Loudoun Cos. (NoVa), Henrico and Chesterfield Cos. (Richmond) and Virginia Beach City and Chesapeake City (Tidewater). Now-Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) won all of these counties by double-digit margins; Ken Cuccinelli (R) could lose all of them, except Chesterfield (where Cuccinelli’s margins will be a telling bellwether). If that happened, it would signal how off-kilter Cuccinelli’s message was to middle-of-the-road voters. Meanwhile, pay close attention to the AG race. If Mark Herring (D) defeats Mark Obenshain (R), Dems should hold every statewide office for the first time since the Nixon administration in what was recently a GOP-friendly state.
Other races to watch: Will the business community be able to help one of their own, Bradley Byrne (R), against an underfunded socially-conservative activist Dean Young (R) in the AL-01 runoff? How will Wall Street react to an anticipated Bill de Blasio romp in NYC? In the Boston mayoral race, will a coalition of labor and minority support propel Marty Walsh (D) to a come-from-behind victory over more-moderate John Connolly (D)? And in Washington state, millions of dollars are being poured into a bellwether state Senate special election — which could offer clues about the national environment, and affect the balance of power in a divided state legislature.
Christie Stumps in Enemy Territory on Campaign’s Final Day
Outside Democratic groups investing their money downballot.
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The National Defense Authorization Act passed the House this morning by a 375-34 vote. The bill, which heads to the Senate next week for final consideration, would fund the military to the tune of $618.7 billion, "about $3.2 billion more than the president requested for fiscal 2017. ... The White House has issued a veto threat on both the House and Senate-passed versions of the bill, but has not yet said if it will sign the compromise bill released by the conference committee this week."
"Republicans have elected Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) the next chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. Walden defeated Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL) and Joe Barton (R-TX), the former committee chairman, in the race for the gavel" to succeed Michgan's Fred Upton.
"Democratic and Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are working on legislation that would limit deportations" under President-elect Donald Trump. Leading the effort are Judiciary Committee members Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is also expected to sign on.
Donald Trump has selected retired Marine Gen. James 'Mad Dog' Mattis as his secretary of defense, according to The Washington Post. Mattis retired from active duty just four years ago, so Congress will have "to pass new legislation to bypass a federal law that states secretaries of defense must not have been on active duty in the previous seven years." The official announcement is likely to come next week.