Back during the 1992 presidential campaign, James Carville had three simple messages for his candidate, then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton. The second one, "The economy, stupid," has stuck around and remains a favorite political cliché around the country. Now, almost two decades later, exit polls indicate it's a phrase that both Democrats and Republicans would do well to remember over the next year.
In both of the two states that held gubernatorial elections on Tuesday, New Jersey and Virginia, a plurality of those surveyed for exit polls said that the economy was the most important issue for them. 46 percent of respondents in Virginia gave that answer, according to CNN, as did 31 percent of those polled in New Jersey.
In his analysis of the exits, ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer wrote, "Vast economic discontent marked the mood of Tuesday's off-year voters, portending potential trouble for incumbents generally and Democrats in particular in 2010." Langer, whose takes on polling are generally very well thought of, added:
Perhaps most striking – though simply confirmatory of national polls – were views on the economy. A vast 90 percent in New Jersey and 85 percent in Virginia said they're worried about the direction of the nation's economy in the next year; majorities, 55 percent and 53 percent, respectively, said they're "very" worried about it.
In Virginia, voters who expressed the highest levels of economic concern supported [Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob] McDonnell by a very wide margin, 73-26 percent. Moreover, 46 percent called the economy the single top issue in their vote, far and away No.1, and those economy voters favored McDonnell over Deeds by a 10-point margin in preliminary results.
There's one bright spot for Democrats, however. Though economically-minded voters might have gone for the Republican in the purple state of Virginia, in a blue state, New Jersey, things were different. There, incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat, won those voters with 60 percent to Republican Chris Christie's 36 percent.