By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: Gov. Chris Christie's landslide triumph puts him in the top echelon of Republican leaders as the party tries to rebuild, regroup and rebrand before the midterm elections and the 2016 race for the White House. Yet it also makes him a target, a magnet for all of the hand-wringing, finger-pointing and soul searching that is still very much alive among conservatives inside the GOP. To a large degree, that's outside of his control. What's more interesting to watch will be his own evolution as a potential candidate. His victory speech sounded more like an announcement, but it's hard to stay on top for two years, so his next challenge is this: Not wearing out his welcome before the real campaign begins.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: With a special-election House victory over a tea party candidate, the Republican establishment dodged a bullet in Alabama. But they may have caught one in Virginia, where a much-closer-than-expected Ken Cuccinelli loss is already prompting questions of resource allocation. How quickly Cuccinelli closed the gap - combined by the fact that the libertarian candidate got far more votes than the margin between Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe - suggest that Virginia was winnable down the stretch. The Republican National Committee, to choose just one large and visible establishment organization, put $3 million into the race - a third of its investment in the state four years ago. Writes RedState.com's Erick Erickson: "The RNC truly screwed up in Virginia this time and no amount of spinning can distract from that screw up." The fact is that Cuccinelli was badly outspent down the stretch, running on financial fumes and left to fight on his own - and still was less the 3 points away from an upset victory. http://www.redstate.com/2013/11/06/virginia/
ABC's ABBY PHILLIP: In the end, the Virginia governor race became all about the Affordable Care Act-at least Ken Cuccinelli tried to make it that way. Yet Democrats looking at tonight's results in Virginia believe that in a climate that couldn't be much worse for the law, their candidate still won. According to exit polls, more than half of voters oppose the health care law and more than half disapprove of how President Obama is handling his job. So would an earlier and harder push against the health care law have helped Cuccinelli? Its impossible to know. But weeks of talking about nothing else but 'Obamacare,' its inherent problems, and its broken website, just wasn't enough to turn this race around.
ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: If Chris Christie's message to the national Republican Party wasn't already crystal clear ("Maybe the folks in Washington DC should tune into their TVs right now. See how it's done") he emphasized that a "dispirited American angry with their dysfunction government in Washington" is looking a the Garden State and how they are bringing people together including "African Americans and Hispanic, suburbanites, and city dwellers, farmers, and teachers." He may have been coy up until this point, but his message last night will be his pitch to his party in 2016 if he runs. He will tell the GOP he can bring traditional Democratic constituencies over to the Republican side and with that his message will be a plain one: he can win and he's the only one who can.
TERRY MCAULIFFE: 'ELECTION WAS NEVER A CHOICE BETWEEN DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS'. In the battle for governor of Virginia, Democrat Terry McAuliffe pulled out a narrow victory Tuesday over Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP reports. He becomes the first Virginia governor elected from the same political party of the president since 1977. Speaking to supporters in Northern Virginia, McAuliffe pivoted back to local issues, pledged to govern in a bipartisan fashion, focused on infrastructure, education investments, and the expansion of the Medicaid program as a part of the Affordable Care Act. "This election was never a choice between Democrats and Republicans, it was a choice about whether Virginia would continue the bipartisan tradition that has served us so well over the last decade," McAuliffe said in Northern Virginia. Cuccinelli, however, blamed his loss on being outspent by $15 million by McAuliffe's campaign and he insisted that Virginia voters had still sent a message to Washington about the health care law. "Despite being outspent by $15 million, this race came down to the wire because of Obamacare," Cuccinelli said in Richmond, Va.. "Though we lost, tonight you sent a message to the President of United States that you believe that Obamacare is a failure, and you want to be in charge of your health care not the government." http://abcn.ws/176tspm
EXIT POLL RESULTS: A TALE OF TWO REPUBLICANS:
By ABC News Pollster GARY LANGER
-CHRISTIE: Broad personal and professional appeal lifted Chris Christie to easy re-election in New Jersey, yet without the clear home state endorsement for the presidency he might have wanted. More than six in 10 New Jersey voters viewed Christie favorably overall and 64 percent approved of his handling of the state's economy - a remarkable achievement, in that six in 10 rated the economy negatively and just three in 10 said it'd improved since he took office. Even more - 85 percent - approved of Christie's handling of the aftermath of superstorm Sandy. Yet even with those very high scores, barely more than half of voters, 51 percent, said Christie would make a good president. And Hillary Clinton had 48 percent to his 44 percent in a hypothetical matchup for 2016, suggesting that even a Republican as popular as Christie can face difficulties against a strong opponent in his predominantly Democratic state. Regardless, Christie got bragging rights from other quarters. He won 51 percent of Latinos voting in his state, a fifth of blacks and a third of nonwhites overall, an unusual achievement for a Republican; his share of nonwhites improved from 19 percent in 2009. He crossed the aisle to pick up 32 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of liberals, while winning moderates and independents by broad margins, as well as vast support from conservatives and Republicans. http://abcn.ws/1cCXnNL
-CUCCINELLI: Ken Cuccinelli lost a far closer contest in Virginia, done in by a mismatch on ideology in general and abortion in particular. In Virginia, support for legal abortion, skepticism about the Tea Party, fallout from the federal government shutdown and doubts about his political ideology confronted Cuccinelli. Six in 10 voters supported legal abortion, which Cuccinelli opposed prominently. Voters by a double-digit margin, 42-28 percent, were more apt to oppose than to support the Tea Party political movement, which backed Cuccinelli. And half called Cuccinelli "too conservative," an opening for his Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe. Women, in particular, were critical of Cuccinelli; exit poll results indicated they favored McAuliffe by 9 points. More particularly, McAuliffe lost married women by 9 points but won unmarried women by 42 points - an even bigger gap than Barack Obama's in 2012 (-7 in the former, +36 in the latter.) http://abcn.ws/1cCXnNL
NOTED: CHRIS CHRISTIE ON 2016 SPECULATION 'IT DOESN'T MEAN ANYTHING TO ME'. Just hours before the polls closed in New Jersey yesterday, Gov. Chris Christie stumped at two more diners ending a 46-stop bus tour around the state, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE reports. Despite at least one call from a supporter for "some New Jersey attitude in the White House," Christie was coy, telling ABC News, "I like my New Jersey attitude right here." "It's nice when people say nice things and that's one of them, but you know it doesn't mean anything to me other than they like what I'm doing and maybe they will vote for me today, that's the most important thing," Christie said at a diner in South Amboy. http://abcn.ws/1cO4n6w From the boardwalk in Asbury Park, WALSHE explains why last night's win for Christie helps set the stage for a possible 2016 presidential bid: http://bit.ly/17EBqvV
NEW OBAMACARE MEMOS DOCUMENT OCTOBER'S ROCKY ROLLOUT. ABC News has reviewed 175 pages of internal Obama administration memos, obtained by the House Oversight Committee documenting the troubled first month of the federal health insurance exchange, HealthCare.gov. While there are no bombshell revelations, ABC's DEVIN DWYER reports, the documents present the most detailed account yet of how the insurance portal's launch unfolded. They make clear that the administration grossly underestimated the scope of the site's technical problems; struggled to contain widespread confusion among insurers and applicants; and now faces a barrage of new challenges with its emphasis on paper applications. The memos - "war room notes" from the team charged with overseeing the rollout - don't provide any hard enrollment figures, which officials have promised to release later this month. But they do suggest the administration likely fell well short of its 500,000 enrollment target in the first month, possibly fewer than one tenth of that goal. SOME KEY TAKEAWAYS: http://abcn.ws/1dNhc1R
-From the moment HealthCare.gov went live there were widespread reports of insurers plans not showing up in the marketplace, or showing up with the wrong pricing or details. Many applicants (90 percent) who managed to get into the system couldn't pass residency tests to determine Medicaid eligibility. Meanwhile, agents and brokers couldn't access their portal, while regional account officers and caseworkers were "unavailable."
-We have no idea how many people succeeded in enrolling in new insurance plans through the online portal during October. As of Oct. 8, according to the memos, it was "700+ enrollments."
-As for paper applications: More than 11,000 have been received, but only 4,000 had been entered into the system as of Oct. 27. Of those, it's not clear how many are completed and applicants officially enrolled.
-From the beginning, one of the biggest problems with the website has been the inability of people to create an account, log in, or check their eligibility for a subsidy. The glitch has centered on the Enterprise Identity Management, "the system that helps identify that people are who they say they are."Repeatedly in October, analysts and administration officials talk about adding servers and making code fixes - each time implying that the noted "fix" should resolve the issue once and for all. But weeks after the Enterprise Identity Management issue first surfaced, they are still grappling with the issue.
BOARD MEETING PRAYER BOUND FOR SUPREME COURT IN CHURCH-STATE CASE. Linda Stephens, who has lived in the town of Greece, N.Y., since the 1970s, says she doesn't want to bow her head to pray or listen to sectarian prayers when she attends town meetings. "I'm an atheist," the retired librarian says. The town's practice of beginning its monthly board meetings with invocations, primarily delivered by Christians, makes her feel like an outsider. She says she attends the meetings not as an observer, but a participant, and that she feels coerced to engage in a Christian practice she believes is inappropriate. Stephens, joined by another town resident, filed suit against the town arguing the prayer practice violates the Constitution's prohibition on the establishment of religion. She won her case when a lower court ruled against Greece, holding that while legislative prayers are not inherently unconstitutional, the totality of the circumstances surrounding the town's practice amount to a violation of the Establishment Clause. The town appealed the decision, and the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments today. Stephens will be in the audience to hear the marshal declare, "God save the United States and this honorable court." http://abcn.ws/1b54JpS
AMID PLAGIARISM ACCUSATIONS, RAND PAUL VOWS TO VET FUTURE SPEECHES AND WRITINGS. Sen. Rand Paul is instituting a new policy that will be familiar to any high school or college student who has ever written a research paper: Footnoting. Paul's move toward more transparency in his speeches and writings comes after multiple media outlets discovered that Paul, R-Ky., had lifted large portions of his verbal and written work from other sources without proper attribution, according to ABC's ALEX LAZAR. "From here forward, quoting, footnoting and citing will be more complete," Doug Stafford, a senior adviser to Paul, said in a statement today. "Adherence to a new approval process implemented by Sen. Paul will ensure proper citation and accountability in all collaborative works going forward." Though it's not entirely clear who exactly was responsible for inserting the unattributed material, that same statement seemed to shift blame to Paul's staff, rather than to Paul himself. "In the thousands of speeches and op-eds Sen. Paul has produced, he has always presented his own ideas, opinions and conclusions," Stafford said. "Sen. Paul also relies on a large number of staff and advisers to provide supporting facts and anecdotes - some of which were not clearly sourced or vetted properly." http://abcn.ws/17DTiXN
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
WHY NEWT GINGRICH WANTS TO GO TO SPACE… Newt Gingrich was famously ridiculed during his 2012 presidential campaign for declaring that he would work toward establishing a colony on the moon if he were elected president. But the former Republican presidential candidate and Speaker of House is still dreaming about space exploration and told "Top Line" he would like to travel to space, "if I get the chance." "This is a good example of what's wrong with the current political system," Gingrich said. "I gave a serious speech in Florida at the Space Coast outlining a very bold strategy. … I got savaged by two of my competitors, Romney and Santorum, who deliberately distorted the speech. I got ridiculed by 'Saturday Night Live.'" Gingrich, who now hosts a show on CNN, writes in his newest book "Breakout" that Washington is a city full of "prison guards of the past," who are slowing the pace of innovation in fields like space exploration. He specifically calls for redirecting government funding from NASA to the private sector, where he believes projects can be more efficiently funded and implemented. "The one period of glory in NASA was the first nine years when they weren't a bureaucracy yet … and they haven't gotten back to that excitement, that adventurism, and won't," he said. http://yhoo.it/1aEFQ6j
… AND SAYS GOP TURMOIL IS HEALTHY. As for the future of the GOP, Gingrich said the current turmoil within the party will ultimately make it stronger. "I like the turmoil," he said."You're going to see a lot of tension and a lot of primary fights, but I don't think that's not healthy. I think that's in fact a sign of a very vibrant movement." http://yhoo.it/1aEFQ6j
WHAT WE'RE READING
EXCERPTS FROM NEWT GINGRICH'S NEW BOOK, 'BREAKOUT: PIONEERS OF THE FUTURE, PRISON GUARDS OF THE PAST, AND THE EPIC BATTLE THAT WILL DECIDE AMERICA'S FATE':
-'ASK YOURSELF WHY': "Wherever the future is happening … there are opponents who want to stop it - 'those who profit by the old order,' who protect themselves and their privileges. These are the prison guards of the past. … The prison guards - politically powerful, well funded, savvy, and brutally determined - have enjoyed a lot of success lately. Ask yourself why forty-five years after landing a man on the moon, the United States has no spacecraft capable of carrying men into orbit. Ask yourself why so many public schools never improve despite our spending more and more money on them, and why millions of families have no alternative to these hopeless holding pens. Ask yourself why a college education costs as much as buying a house in an age when information has become virtually free. Ask yourself why practically every doctor expects the next medical breakthroughs to be available in China and Europe before the United States. Despite all the remarkable changes in information technology in recent years, the prison guards have kept us trapped in the past in most other fields. In fact, our fascination with high-tech consumer electronics may blind us to our prison bars. Our devices lend an appearance of the future to otherwise old ideas and institutions of education, medicine, government, and more."
-'A SECOND APPROACH' TO REFORMING HEALTH CARE: "While you have heard plenty about Obamacare, you might not have heard as much about a second approach to reforming our dysfunctional healthcare system. That's because it sneaked up on us. While we were debating about insurance coverage and Medicare bills, many of the transformational breakthroughs in medical science that we had long been promised-personalized medicine, treatments based on genomics, and regenerative therapies-approached the stage of development at which they could be offered to average people. These technologies have the potential to give us much longer, healthier lives in a very different world-a world in which diabetes, heart attacks, and even cancer are either completely avoidable or merely short-term inconveniences. Obamacare's hyper-bureaucratized and depersonalized approach to healthcare and the new technologies of personalized medicine are headed for a painful collision in the near future. As medicine moves toward treatments that are exactly right for your problems with your body, our system for regulating and paying for healthcare is moving in the opposite direction-taking decisions away from you and your doctor and giving them to 'experts' you have never met."
@jonkarl: The final exits: 33% of Sarvis voters said they would've gone to McAuliffe, 15% to Cuccinelli. The rest wouldn't have voted or didn't answer
@amyewalter: VA electorate in '13 mirrored '12. Obama won VA +4- TMac won it by +3. Why the freak out about closeness?
@Messina2012: Dems now have all 3 top statewide VA and both senate seats for 1st time since 1969. GOP '16 math gets hard without VA's 13 EV's.