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Virginia Governor’s Race: Showdown Takes Shape

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By Danny Yadron

Virginia’s election for governor, which takes place the year after every presidential election, is sometimes viewed as a bellwether of national trends.
In 2009, for example, the victory of Republican Bob McDonnell was seen as an early sign of the tea party ferment that developed in opposition to President Barack Obama’s election and policies. (The election of Republican Chris Christie in New Jersey that year added weight to the idea that a backlash to Mr. Obama was forming.
The 2013 race for Virginia governor is now taking shape, with two prominent state officials—Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli—running for the GOP nomination, and Terry McAuliffe, a prolific Democratic fundraiser and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, emerging as his party’s likely nominee.
Two competing trends are weighing on the race.
Democrats have won the last three Senate elections in Virginia and two of the last three contests for governor. And President Obama has carried the state twice, burying Virginia’s image as a reliable stronghold for Republicans. That suggests Virginia Democrats have a lot going for them in next year’s election.
But another bit of history may also come into play: Since 1977, no person has been elected governor of Virginia from the same party as the president. That suggests Republicans enter with an edge.
The race will be watched closely for signs of whether Mr. Obama’s coalition of suburbanites and minority voters can hold together without the president on the ballot. Mr. McAuliffe’s campaign has already reached out to Obama campaign officials to study how they won Virginia in the past two elections, a feat no Democrat had accomplished since Franklin D. Roosevelt, a campaign official said.
Republicans are split between Mr. Cuccinelli, a tea party favorite who led lawsuits against Democrats’ health care law, and Mr. Bolling, who has been endorsed by Gov. McDonnell,  who can’t run in 2013 because of term limits.
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