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Exit Polls in Va. and N.J.: The Obama (Non) Factor?

This post was written by CBS News' Jennifer DePinto and Fred Backus. It was updated at 2:20 a.m. ET, Nov. 4, 2009
(AP)
As voters in Virginia and New Jersey headed to the polls today to elect their governors, Americans across the country were watching these off-year races for implications about the nation's mood heading into 2010.

In Virginia, Republican Bob McDonnell and Democrat R. Creigh Deeds are battling to succeed the term-limited sitting governor Tim Kaine in what is widely viewed as a potential swing state in the future. In New Jersey, Democrat Jon Corzine is the only incumbent governor in the country to face a re-election challenge this year against Republican Chris Christie and independent Chris Daggett.

A majority of voters in both states said they are worried about the direction of the nation's economy over the next year. 85 percent of Virginia voters said they are worried, as are 89 percent of voters in New Jersey. These percentages were similar on Election Day in 2008.

In both states the economy topped the list of issues that mattered most to voters in their choice for governor – in Virginia health care was second, while in New Jersey the second choice was property taxes.

And what about the Obama factor? President Obama campaigned for both the Democratic gubernatorial candidates, even visiting New Jersey as recently as Sunday to stump for Jon Corzine.

(CBS/AP)
Still, majorities of voters in both states (56 percent in Virginia and 60 percent in New Jersey) said President Obama was not a factor in their vote today. Those who said Mr. Obama was a factor in New Jersey divided as to whether their vote was a vote for the president (19 percent) or against him (19 percent). In Virginia, slightly fewer voters said their vote was for Mr. Obama (17 percent) than against him (24 percent).

Among Corzine supporters in New Jersey, 38 percent said one reason for their vote was to express support for Mr. Obama, while 39 percent of Christie voters said it was to express opposition to Mr. Obama.

In Virginia, among backers of the Democratic candidate, Creigh Deeds, 38 percent said their vote was in part to support the president, while 42 percent of McDonnell voters said their vote was in part to oppose the president.

This campaign cycle has seen its share of negative advertising in both Virginia and New Jersey.

In Virginia, Deeds is viewed more as the attacker – 65 percent said he has attacked McDonnell unfairly. 51 percent thought McDonnell attacked Deeds unfairly.

Over in New Jersey, the Democrat is also seen as more on the attack. 73 percent of voters said Corzine has attacked Christie unfairly; though 62 percent viewed Christie as attacking Corzine. Corzine has spent approximately $24 million on his campaign, compared to Christie's $12 million.

About half the voters in each state (57 percent in Virginia and 50 percent in New Jersey) said campaign advertising was a factor in their vote for governor today.

A third of New Jersey voters saw their vote today as a vote against the other candidates rather than in support of the person they cast a ballot for. 28 percent of Corzine voters and 61 percent of Christie voters said they were voting more against their candidate's opponents than voting for their candidate.

Most voters in both states decided on their choice for governor some time ago. In New Jersey, 54 percent made their decision before September, while in Virginia 46 percent made their decision that long ago. Still, about one in five voters in each state made their decision within the past week.

CBSNews.com Election Night Coverage:

Results
All Election Night 2009 Results
Republicans Sweep N.J., Va. Gov. Races
N.Y. Democrat Owens Wins House Seat
Maine Voters Reject Gay Marriage
Breckenridge, Colo., Votes to Legalize Pot

Analysis
What McDonnell's Win Means for the GOP, Obama
Corzine's Fall Has Been Festering for a While
What Doug Hoffman's Loss Means to Conservatives
Lessons for the White House from '09 Election Results
Why Christie Won in New Jersey
McDonnell Won Due to Turnout, Independents
Exit Polls in Va. and N.J.: The Obama (Non) Factor?