RICHMOND, Va. —
Cuccinelli, too, got high-profile backers to the state, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal — all potential presidential contenders in 2016.
From the outset, the campaign shaped up as a barometer of voters' moods and a test of whether a swing-voting state like Virginia could elect a tea party-style governor. As one of just two races for governor nationwide, political strategists eyed the race for clues about what would work for 2014's midterm elections when control of Congress is up for grabs.
The winner will succeed term-limited Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, for a four-year term starting in January. Obama won the state in 2008 and 2012, but far fewer voters participate in off-year elections and that gives the GOP better odds.
Republicans bet a deeply conservative candidate would be their best shot, passing over a lieutenant governor for Cuccinelli, a crusader against the federal health care law. Democrats chose a loyal partisan who once led the Democratic National Committee and recruited the Clintons to raise millions for him and rally the party faithful.
The 45-year-old Cuccinelli went into Election Day trying to overcome a deficit in the polls, a crush of negative ads and a lingering wariness among fellow Republicans about his conservative views. His day was set to take him from his home in northern Virginia south toward Richmond, where he planned to watch the results with supporters.
Cuccinelli pinned his hopes on voters' frustrations with the federal health care law he attempted to foil. He tried to make the election into a referendum on the law, which McAuliffe supports.
"I'm scared to death about what Obamacare is doing to Virginians. Terry McAuliffe is scared to death what Obamacare is doing to Terry McAuliffe," Cuccinelli said Monday, noting its rocky rollout has proved embarrassing for Democrats.