WASHINGTON (CNN) - Election 2007 is in the record books. But did the election that was overshadowed by the early start to next year’s presidential contest tell us anything about the 2008 contests?
The answer is yes and no.
It was a split decision when it comes to the two gubernatorial contests decided Tuesday. Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher was voted out of office. He acknowledged his defeat, saying “the voters have made up their minds and I accept their decision.”
The incumbent Republican was ousted by Democrat and former Lt. Governor Steve Beshear. Fletcher was dogged by an investigation into political interference in state hirings that led to his indictment. The charges were dropped after Fletcher admitted to wrongdoing in his administration, but the damage was done and Fletcher was damaged goods.
It was a different story for another Republican Governor - Mississippi's Haley Barbour. He easily won a second term - thanks in part to praise of his handling of recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina. Barbour beat Democrat John Arthur Eaves Jr. by nearly 20 percentage points. Eaves, an attorney, ran as a conservative evangelical Democrat.
While both races were interesting, neither should have any national impact. “The Kentucky and Mississippi contests were so state specific that I don’t think that there were any national lessons,” says non-partisan Political Analyst Stuart Rothenberg, who’s editor-in-chief of the Rothenberg Political Report.
Virginia could be a different story. Democrats there made major gains, winning control of the state senate for the first time in twelve years. And while Republicans retained control of Virginia’s state house, Democrats won back a couple of seats.
If you couple yesterday’s results with victories by Virginia Democrats in the 2001 and 2005 gubernatorial elections and last year’s U.S. senate battle, where Democrat James Webb ousted incumbent Senator George Allen, it’s another sign that the once reliably red state is now up for grabs.
Democratic voters are pouring into suburban Northern Virginia, and Democratic candidates there made the elections a referendum on President Bush and Republicans in Washington.
"It's just not a good year for republicans…and we're seeing that all over the state,” said Republican Jean Marie Devolites Davis, who failed in her bid for a state senate seat.
Virginia will be in the spotlight next year - as democrats try to win the seat of retiring U.S. Senator and Republican John Warner. Democrats will also try to win the state in the presidential election, something they haven’t been able to do in over 40 years.
“Republicans now have to start worrying about Virginia. They can't take it for granted anymore,” says Rothenberg.
After the failure of immigration reform in Washington this summer, many of the Republican candidates in Virginia made battling illegal immigration one of their top issue. But the jury's still out on whether that strategy succeeded or backfired.
“I still think Republicans will continue to use illegal immigration as an issue in 2008,” adds Rothenberg.
Several big cities held mayoral contests. A bit of history was made in Baltimore, which elected a black woman mayor for the first time. Sheila Dixon was appointed to the job after Martin O’Malley left office after winning Maryland’s governorship. She was elected yesterday. And Michael Nutter won the mayoral election in Philadelphia.
Voters in Houston, Pittsburgh and San Francisco re-elected their mayors.
Related video: Watch Brian Todd's report about Tuesday's election results
- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser