2013 Governors' Races Test for National Republican Party Path Forward

Republicans split on how to return to national prominence could learn from state races.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to a large gathering in Manasquan, N.J., Thursday, March 21, 2013, during a town hall meeting.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to a large gathering in Manasquan, N.J., in March during a town hall meeting.

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"In both instances it seems to me, you have two candidates who are not well outside of the mainstream," says a former Republican National Party official who worked on the Romney campaign. "This isn't a Michele Bachmann-esque candidacy that's trying to tap into the anger that exists on the far right and neither of them is emerging from a contentious primary battle where you have that."

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Larry Sabato, a well-known political prognosticator who runs the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, says there's no law that says political parties have to win – but if the party wants to broaden its appeal, it has to be honest about what electoral results tell them.

"If the Republican base across the country today had to pick their favorite gubernatorial candidate and the two choices were Chris Christie and Ken Cuccinelli, which one do you think would win?" he asks. "Cuccinelli in a landslide. There it is. There's the problem. Except the real problem is, they don't see it as a problem."

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