11/10/2012 07:52 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

'Virginia Curse' Could Help Republicans In 2013

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia Republicans did not have a lot to cheer about on Election Day when it came to the presidential election and the race for U.S. Senate.

But they should cheer up. After all, the Virginia Curse augurs well for GOP chances in 2013.

What's that -- never heard of the Curse? Well, it goes something like this:

Since 1976, Virginians have followed each presidential election by electing a governor of the opposing party a year later.

Pundits have tried to explain it, and politicians can't deny it.

Recent history:

Republican George W. Bush was elected president in 2000 and Virginians elected Democrat Mark R. Warner governor in 2001. Bush was re-elected in 2004. Virginians elected Democrat Timothy M. Kaine governor in 2005.

Democrat Barack Obama was first elected president in 2008. In 2009, Virginians elected Republican Bob McDonnell governor.

So, Obama's re-election would appear to give an edge to Virginia Republicans attempting to hold on to the Executive Mansion next year.

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli are vying for the Republican nomination, which the party will decide in a convention next year. But neither is ready to count on the Curse in 2013.

"The effect on Virginia's governor race will depend on what goes on in Washington and people's reaction to it," Cuccinelli said.

"It will take some time to unfold. We're going to focus on growing the economy and creating jobs regardless of what's going on in Washington," he said.

Bolling spokeswoman Taylor Thornley spun the issue of a curse into a question of the candidate, not the party.

"We're not inclined to put much stock into that," she said. "We think it all depends on whether we nominate an electable candidate for governor," she said, reprising a Bolling talking point that he has a broader appeal to independents and moderates in a general election than the higher-profile attorney general, a tea party favorite.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman turned green-energy entrepreneur who on Thursday declared his candidacy for governor, would appear to be on the wrong side of history when it comes to the Curse.

University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato doesn't believe in curses. "I don't believe in ghosts either," he said. "But I do think there are historical tendencies that can apply, and this is one of them.

Sabato said there could be a natural "give-back, or kickback or bounce-back" that comes after a presidential election followed by an off-year election, and Virginia and New Jersey are the only states to elect a governor following a presidential election year.

In January 2009, Kaine, then Virginia's governor, said he regarded Republican McDonnell as the favorite to succeed him, citing the Curse.

"I used to think that was a coincidence," Kaine said, but he had decided that it reflects "buyer's remorse."

Presidents usually lose seats in the midterm elections, he noted.

jnoan@timesdispatch.com (804) 649-6061 ___

(c)2012 the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, Va.)

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