WASHINGTON -- As more and more Americans engage themselves in politics, there are two races they need to pay close attention to.
For most states, this is an off election year, but voters in Virginia and New Jersey are preparing to elect a new governor.
Rematch in Old Dominion
In Virginia, it's a rematch: Democrat Creigh Deeds and Republican Bob McDonnell met four years ago in the race to become attorney general.
After a recount, McDonnell maintained a slim margin of victory by just several hundred votes.
The men are well-matched candidates. Both have long records of public service in the Virginia legislature, both have large families and both are well respected by their party leaders.
However, the results of the race may have less to do with the candidates and more with the political winds blowing in from across the Potomac River.
In Virginia, every four years since 1978, voters have elected a governor that represents the political party opposite of that represented in the White House. In New Jersey, it's been the same trend since 1989.
Deeds often introduces himself on the stump as "a country guy with four kids, four horses, five ponies and a donkey named Harry S. Truman."
It's folksy charm that's helped catapult Virginia Democrats such as Sen. Mark Warner, Sen. Jim Webb and Gov. Tim Kaine into statewide office over the past decade.
Last November, the Commonwealth voted for President Barack Obama breaking a 44-year trend of electing Republicans to the highest office in the land. That led political pundits to paint Virginia purple. After all, both of Virginia's United States senators, the current and immediate past governors are all Democrats.
Ending the Blue Streak
However, after such a volatile summer where concerned and even angry citizens turned out in droves to town hall meetings - often engaging their representatives with emotional questions about health care and the economy - some analysts believe the Old Dominion may end the blue streak.
Kitty Tyree, a voter from Fairfield, Va., said, "Everyone is concerned about this health issue."
Erika Anderson, who recently moved to the Commonwealth, said, "What is it? Like nearly 47 out of the 50 states are all in a budget deficit or something like that. So, I think it's very important with five small kids. Especially with health care and education, more than ever I think it's important."
Political analyst Larry Sabato with the University of Virginia Center for Politics predicts Virginia and New Jersey voters are ready to use their governors' mansions to send a message to the White House.
"Fundamentally, I think it's related to President Obama and President Obama's controversial health care proposal, the fact that the economy still hasn't stabilized at least in the view of many Americans," Sabato said.
Because there are two political shows in town this year, both Deeds and McDonnell will have access to all the money they need. Deeds also has the benefit of a personal relationship with Kaine who also serves as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
However, McDonnell appears to be receiving more help from out of state, which may indicate the mood of the country.
Out of a total of more than $14 million raised, nearly half has come from out of state. Deeds has raised nearly $8 million and $3.2 million came from outside the state.
Hot Button Social Issues
Although the economy continues to struggle, social issues have made their way into the race.
Deeds has attacked his opponent's pro-life stance and voting record on abortion.
"I talk about the social issues only to demonstrate to the world that these have been his priorities over the past number of years that's going to inform what sort of governor he's going to be," Deeds said.
Analysts say the more moderate Democrat is trying to fire up his base that may be suffering from fatigue after such an exciting presidential election.
McDonnell also made news on social issues when a thesis he wrote more than 20 years ago as a graduate student at Regent University surfaced.
Titled The Republican Party's Vision for the Family, McDonnell writes about how homosexuality, abortion, and how working women damage the traditional family dynamic.
McDonnell supports traditional marriage and maintains strong families are the best hedge of protection against crime, school drop outs and welfare. However, he has spent some time back pedaling on his writings on women.
"My daughter has been in Iraq, was in Iraq when I was elected Attorney General," he says. "My two oldest daughters have master's degrees; my wife has worked most of our marriage. I strongly support women's tremendous contributions to our economy."
The outcome of the race will set the tone for the mid-term Congressional elections next year in which Republicans are expected to pick up seats. The only question is how many.
Political analysts are watching to see if the political trends of the past decades hold up. Both Deeds and Kaine are working hard to break the mold, just as they did in November, leading President Obama to victory in the Old Dominion.