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McAuliffe projected to narrowly win Virginia governor's race

10:18 PM, Nov 5, 2013   |    comments
Democratic gubernatorial candidate for Virginia Terry McAuliffe and his son Peter leave a polling station after he casted his vote on Election Day November 5, 2013 at Spring Hill Elementary School in McLean, Virginia. McAuliffe is running against Republican Ken Cuccinelli, the current attorney general of Virginia, to succeed Bob McDonnell to be the next Virginia governor. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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Democrat Terry McAuliffe has narrowly defeated Republican Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia's governor's race, according to NBC News projections.

The Democratic businessman and former political moneyman prevailed in a tight race with the state attorney general with Libertarian Party candidate Robert Sarvis peeling off limited support from both sides.

McAuliffe, who failed to win the Democratic nomination for governor four years ago, maintained a consistent lead in polls this year in part due to Republican infighting that helped the deeply conservative Cuccinelli secure his party's nomination. And the Democrat tapped into the organization that helped President Barack Obama win the state in two consecutive elections as well as the popularity of his good friends - Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Cuccinelli had distinguished himself as a conservative stalwart during eight years as a state senator andattorney general. The Republican embraced the ascendant Tea Party movement early on, winning accolades from conservatives for his legal challenges to Obamacare, abortion rights laws and climate change research.
That endeared Cuccinelli to conservatives nationally, but turned some voters at home against him. McAuliffe highlighted more strident examples of Cuccinelli's views to swing voters across Virginia, a state which has become friendlier to Democrats in recent elections due to changing demographics in the state. 

Ken Cuccinelli talks about the "clear and contrasting positions" he and Terry McAuliffe have over Obama's health care plan in the state.

Cuccinelli also contended with backlash over the October government shutdown, which affected federal workers who reside in Washington's Northern Virginia suburbs and throughout the state.

McAuliffe fashioned himself as a problem-solving entrepreneur and worked to shake his image as a fundraising whiz who boosted both Clintons by activating a vast network of donors and business interests. He also faced questions about his involvement in electric car company GreenTech, which fell well short of lofty promises of job creation.

Political heavyweights from both parties campaigned for their favored candidates throughout the summer and fall. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and former Rep. Ron Paul stumped for Cuccinelli in the waning days of the campaign, as did Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. McAuliffe was boosted by Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and the multiple appearances by the Clintons.

The presence of the former president and onetime secretary of state is not just about a longstanding friendship with McAuliffe. Should Hillary Clinton decide to run for president in 2016, having a supportive governor in a crucial swing state like Virginia would be a strong asset for her campaign.

Sen. Mark Warner joins AMR to discuss candidate Terry McAuliffe's chances in Tuesday's elections, and how a Democratic Virginia could help candidates in 2016.

And the national political battle played out in this race. While Democrats tied Cuccinelli to Tea Party-affiliated pols like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the GOP contender pushed to make the election a referendum on Obama's glitch-riddled health care rollout.

NBC News

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