TheDC’s election guide: Three key statewide races to watch

Alex Pappas Political Reporter

Can Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli pull off an upset in the Virginia gubernatorial race, or will former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe finally become a governor?

How big of a landslide will Gov. Chris Christie win in New Jersey?

Will Alabama send a traditional conservative to fill an open U.S. House seat? Or do they send a perennial candidate famous for saying things like gays are “not welcome” in Alabama?

All three of these elections — occurring Tuesday — have national implications. Here’s The Daily Caller’s guide to these contests:

VIRGINIA: “If you are a betting person, bet on McAuliffe,” former White House adviser Karl Rove said on Fox News Sunday about the Democratic nominee in the Virginia gubernatorial contest.

But citing tightening poll numbers in recent days, Rove argued that you can’t discount Cuccinelli, the Republican, just yet. He cited the Real Clear Politics polling average for the race showing McAuliffe at 45.3 percent and Cuccinelli at 40.3 percent.

“My sense is that Virginia race is not five points, it’s going to be closer than that,” Rove said. “Fifteen percent of the voters in Virginia are either undecided or say they’re committed to the libertarian candidate, but half of those libertarian votes are going to go to someplace else.”

Throughout the campaign, Cuccinelli has been repeatedly smeared on the air by Democrats and liberal groups as someone who would be harmful to women, citing things like his pro-life views.

He’s also been unlucky: the gifts scandal involving the current Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, and the federal government shutdown has muddied Cuccinelli’s message. It has also taken attention off numerous negative stories about McAuliffe’s business and investment history. (The Democrat, it was revealed, even once invested in an insurance scam that preyed on the terminally ill).

But Cuccinelli has finally seemed to catch a break with the disastrous roll out of Obamacare over the last several weeks. Capitalizing on this, the Republican has essentially argued that the election is a referendum of the unpopular law.

Meanwhile, President Obama himself campaigned  in Virginia over the weekend on behalf of McAuliffe, who has raised $34 million to Cuccinelli’s $20 million, according to reports.

“This election’s going to say a lot about Virginia’s future, and the country’s future,” Obama said at a Sunday rally.

NEW JERSEY: The big question in the New Jersey gubernatorial contest is not whether Christie beats Democratic opponent Barbara Buono: it’s how bad he beats her.

The Real Clear Politics polling average shows Christie ahead of Buono by nearly 25 points – 59 percent to 34.7 percent. That’s no small feat in a liberal state that just weeks ago elected Democrat Cory Booker to the U.S. Senate.

Ahead of Tuesday’s election, Christie allies are pointing out that no Republican candidate in the Garden State has earned more than 50 percent of the vote in 28 years. Not only did President Obama win New Jersey by 17 points in 2012, but Democrats outnumber Republicans by 700,000.

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, former Republican Sen. Scott Brown said that Christie’s unlikely advantage in the race is likely because the Republican has “approached things in a bipartisan problem solving manner.”

“I personally like the Christie approach,” Brown said. “I think we need to be problem solvers.”

What to watch after Tuesday: does Christie — who recently angered Christian conservatives by no longer challenging a pro-gay marriage court ruling — start taking more conservative stances as he gets buzz as a potential 2016 candidate for president?

ALABAMA: “To the homosexuals who will not change, you are not welcome here in Etowah County or in the State of Alabama.”

Dean Young, the former political aide who said that in 1997, is now in a neck-and-neck GOP primary runoff with former Alabama state Sen. Bradley Byrne for the state’s open first district U.S. House seat.

A poll released last week shows Young and Byrne in a virtual tie, with Young leading 43.2 percent to Byrne’s 40.2 percent, within the margin of error.

The race has gotten national attention because it appears to be a microcosm of a larger debate going on within the Republican right now.

Many national observers have noted that the race is a classic establishment versus tea party race. But that’s not quite accurate. Young is not necessarily a tea party candidate — he’s run for office four times, emphasizes social issues more than economic issues and his most ardent supporters are the Christian conservative base of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore.

What makes the race interesting for national observers is the competing styles offered in the contest.

While it’s hard to see how Young and Byrne would vote differently than each other in Congress, their style and tone couldn’t be more different.

Young portrays himself as a fighter who admires Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and often says incendiary things about President Obama (including telling interviewers that the president was probably born in Kenya).

Byrne is a more mild mannered traditional Alabama Republican and often says he’s a problem solver and not a problem maker. He has the backing of the outgoing congressman – GOP Rep. Jo Bonner – and many other Republican officeholders in the state and across the country.

The winner of that contest is expected to easily win the general election and become the next congressman of this heavily Republican district.

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