The odd-year election returns rewarded mainstream politicians in ways that offer particular encouragement to the Republican Party and to American business. What's more, the results of a House race in Alabama that got little national attention may foreshadow a stronger role by business in the midterms next fall.
The most important victory on Tuesday went to New Jersey's Republican governor, Chris Christie, who garnered 60 percent of the vote in his Democratic-leaning state with a feisty blend of fiscal conservatism and pragmatism.
Christie, who enjoys strong business support, has criticized both the libertarian philosophy of Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and the recent government shutdown promoted by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
His landslide win, after the setbacks those potential rivals have suffered in recent days, represented a strong opening statement for his expected bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination—and could temper conservative criticism he has received for having praised President Barack Obama's response to Hurricane Sandy last year.
The flip side of his victory was the defeat in Virginia's gubernatorial contest of Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli. His hard-line conservatism, which drew major backing from the tea party and the religious right, was unable to attract a majority in a Southern state despite his attacks on a politically vulnerable President Obama and his troubled new health-care law.
(Read more: Christie wins big, tea party loses in Va. race)