Backlash for Republicans but Christie a shoo-in
The Tea Party wing of the Republican Party was facing the prospect of receiving voters' wrath, a month after being blamed for forcing a US government shutdown that cost the American economy an estimated $24bn (€17.8bn).
Elections for the governors of Virginia and New Jersey could well send a message to the ideological wing of the party, which insisted on forcing the shutdown in a failed attempt to win concessions over Barack Obama's healthcare reforms.
In Virginia, a key national battleground state won by less than 3pc by Mr Obama in 2012, the Democrat candidate Terry McAuliffe was holding a six-point lead over his Tea Party-backed opponent Ken Cuccinelli as polls opened yesterday morning.
In New Jersey, meanwhile, Chris Christie, a pragmatic Republican who has deliberately contrasted himself with the ideological, no-compromise Tea Party wing, was poised to win a remarkable landslide in a heavily Democrat state, with polls showing him an average of 25 points ahead.
Establishment Republicans said his victory would be further evidence of the power of results-orientated politics over insistence on ideological purity, after a month when Republican Party national approval ratings slumped to 20pc.
Moderate Republicans warned that Mr Cuccinelli's poor showing in the polls reflected the failure to woo Virginia's increasingly moderate electorate with a highly ideological agenda that includes abstinence-only sex education and once trying but failing to ban gay sex.
His failure to ignite a popular campaign was reflected in a massive funding gap, with Mr McAuliffe – a former fundraiser for Bill and Hillary Clinton – outraising Mr Cuccinelli to the tune of $15m.
Both Mr Obama and his vice-president Joe Biden, under fire for the lamentable handling of the rollout of Mr Obama's signature healthcare reforms, have also piled in against Mr Cuccinelli in an attempt to drive deeper the ideological wedge currently dividing the Republican Party.
Mr Biden said Mr Cuccinelli's views on women were "from another era" while casting the race as a GOP factional fight. (© Daily Telegraph, London)