At the same time, substantial numbers in both states expressed a view that government "is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals," a measure of concern about activist government. And conservatives accounted for more voters in both states than they did in 2008 – their turnout was up by 7 points in Virginia and by 5 in New Jersey.
Also notable was the very sharp drop-off in voting by young adults: Voters under age 30 accounted for just 9 percent of voters in New Jersey (compared with 17 percent in 2008) and 10 percent in Virginia (down from 21 percent a year ago). Young voters were Obama's biggest supporters last year, but their uncertain turnout makes them a less reliable base. And while Corzine won them broadly Tuesday, under 30s in Virginia favored the Republican, McDonnell, by 10 points.
A summary of results in each state follows.
VIRGINIA – More than a verdict on Obama, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Creigh Deeds' main problem looks to have been Creigh Deeds. He fell short in connecting with Virginia voters: They divided on whether Deeds "shares your values" – 47 percent yes, 50 percent no. McDonnell, scored better; 61 percent said he shares their values.
Similarly, just 40 percent in Virginia saw Deeds as "about right" ideologically, rather than too liberal (47 percent) or too conservative (6 percent). More, 53 percent, saw McDonnell as "about right" on this spectrum; 33 percent said he was too conservative, 7 percent too liberal.
Nearly half, 47 percent called the economy the single top issue in their vote, far and away No.1, as noted those economy voters favored McDonnell over Deeds by a 15-point margin, 57-42 percent. (An additional 15 percent called taxes their top issue – and those voters went for McDonnell by a far broader margin.)
Deeds spent considerable resources during the campaign criticizing a conservatively themed thesis McDonnell wrote as a law school student – an effort that was perhaps ill-targeted. While 22 percent said the thesis made them less likely to support McDonnell (vs. 8 percent more likely), most, 65 percent, said it had no impact on their vote, and they went heavily for McDonnell.
NEW JERSEY – The choice was hardly an inspirational one for many New Jersey voters: Fifty-four percent expressed an unfavorable opinion of Corzine overall, 48 percent held a negative view of Christie and 52 percent said the same of independent candidate Chris Daggett.
Notable was that the extent to which Christie's support was chiefly an anti-Corzine vote. Forty-two percent of the Republican's supporters said they'd cast their ballot more against his opponents than for him. Corzine's supporters were far more apt to be chiefly for him (75 percent) than against Christie or Daggett (21 percent).
Daggett did not appear to have played a spoiler's role; Christie still held the advantage when voters were asked whom they'd have supported if Daggett had not been in the race.
About a third of New Jersey voters cited the economy as the top issue in their vote, followed by property taxes, selected by about a quarter. As noted, in contrast with the Virginia result, it was Corzine who won economy voters by a broad margin, 58-36 percent. But Christie won tax-focused voters, 67-25 percent.