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Fairfax (United States) (AFP) – Democrat Terry McAuliffe eked out a narrow victory late Tuesday in the Virginia governor’s race, U.S. networks projected, in a contest which could have major implications for the 2016 presidential election.

McAuliffe’s win marks a bitter defeat for Republican Ken Cuccinelli, the state’s attorney general whose campaign was backed by the Tea Party, the conservative movement in the nation’s political spotlight for its small-government, anti-tax positions.

The win could also serve as a talisman for President Barack Obama’s Democrats, who see an opportunity in Virginia’s changing demographics and frustration with the Tea Party to make the traditionally Republican state one of the key battlegrounds of 2016.

“What a great night, everybody,” McAuliffe told supporters in the state’s northern, high-tech suburbs, which he counted on heavily in his win.

Virginia is perhaps the most closely watched U.S. election of the year. The state’s changing demographics, rural-suburban split and significant military and government employee populations make it a litmus test for the political mood of a country steaming toward the 2016 White House race.

McAuliffe has never held elected office, but he is a consummate party insider and close ally of former president Bill Clinton — and, perhaps more importantly, of Hillary Clinton, who is seen as a likely Democratic 2016 candidate.

Both campaigned with him, as did Obama.

Cuccinelli is a fiscal conservative, but his far-right stance on social issues such as abortion alienated even mainstream Republicans in his party.

“I think we’ve seen across the country that people reject extreme messages, and if Republicans hope to have a shot of winning in any general election, they’ve got to stop with the Tea Party message because it just doesn’t resonate,” federal contractor Kellen, a Virginia Republican who said he voted for write-in candidates because he was disgusted with his party’s ticket, told AFP.

Kellen, who declined to give his last name because he works with federal agencies, and other Republicans looked to New Jersey’s Chris Christie, whose less strident position on social issues sits better with Republicans who believe the election should be more about jobs and the economy than abortion or gay rights.

Christie romped to re-election victory Tuesday in New Jersey, making him perhaps the nation’s dominant Republican in the runup to the next presidential race.

A Christie win combined with a Cuccinelli loss will go far to solidify the argument that Republicans would be better served with ditching deeply ideological candidates and sticking with pragmatists like Christie for 2016.

And yet one thing the result clearly was not was an outright rejection of Tea Party values.

Cuccinelli lost by only two percentage points, a far closer race than anticipated in part because he painted Democrats as supporters of the health care law whose troubled rollout over the last month may yet prove to be a political liability for Obama’s party in coming years.

The narrow margin of defeat may end up emboldening Tea Party conservatives to stand their ground in the mid-term elections of 2014 and beyond.

“Conservative Republicans will certainly take heart that Ken Cuccinelli did better than expected,” University of Virginia politics professor Larry Sabato told CNN.

AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan

Donald Trump Jr.

Screenshot from Twitter

You've probably heard about Donald Trump's claim that his Democratic rival got "a big fat se onhot in the ass" before delivering a nearly perfect performance on a recently televised town hall. Or his more recent demand that Joe Biden get a "drug test" before their debate on Tuesday night. Having spent months lowering expectations for Biden, the Trumps are now busily defaming him as a junkie.

But that particular slur backfired spectacularly over the weekend when the Trump campaign posted a bizarre video of Don Jr. -- seemingly in a condition that called for rehab services. As his father might put it, "many people are saying" that the presidential spud looked and sounded like someone abusing a controlled substance. (His slurred message was disturbed too, something about an "army of able-bodied men and women" to intimidate voters).

It's both funny and sad to watch Don Jr. decompensate on Twitter. (More funny, though.)

Click and judge his condition for yourself.