President Reagan campaigned heavy for GOP gubernatorial candidates in New Jersey and Virginia, but about the best the President's party could do on Tuesday was break even.
Democrat Lt. Gov. Charles Robb won the top spot in Virginia. Republican candidate Thomas H. Kean appeared the winner in the New Jersey race.
Despite the GOP defeat in Virginia, the Democratic sweep of statewide offices there should not be seen as a rejection of the Mr. Reagan or his principles.
Mr. Robb never directly attacked Reagan's economic or social programs. In fact, he worked hard to align himself with the general ideals and practices of conservatism. He was forced to do so by an opponent (Republican Attorney General Marshall Coleman) who tried to tar him with the Great Society brush of his father-in-law, former President Lyndon Johnson.
Still, the Democratic victory in this traditionally conservative state cannot be judged other than bad news for the GOP. It was the first time since 1965 that they have lost the statehouse and the first time in 12 years that either party swept all three statewide offices - governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. The election also confirms that given a relatively conservative candidate, Democrats can overcome massive Republican spending and the President's coattails, especially in states like Virginia where there are a significant number of black voters.
In New Jersey, GOP gubernatorial candidate Thomas H. Kean held a lead of slightly more than 1,000 votes (out of more than 2.2 million cast) over Rep. James J. Florio (D) of New Jersey. If called for, a recount of all votes, including absentee ballets, could take several days.
If Mr. Kean wins he will promptly move to reduce business taxes to stimulate the state economy and increase jobs. He also has plans for a phased-in reduction of the state sales tax. No quick, easy passage is foreseen for these proposals in the state Legislature. Both houses remain controlled by Democrats.
A Florio victory could mean swifter efforts to deal with the state's ailing mass transit network. In Congress, Mr. Florio has fought cuts in Amtrak's budget as well as cuts in other federal mass transit programs.
A victory by Kean would be a significant shift in New Jersey politics. Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by more than 2 to 1.