In a few hours, we will likely learn that prolific Democratic fundraiser Terry McAuliffe has been elected Governor of Virginia.
And much as we can predict that result, we can alos predict the reactions. The Democrats (and their allies in the mainstream media) will depict it as a repudiation of conservatism, a rejection of the ideas espoused by the Tea Party. Certain Tea Party conservatives will fault the GOP establishment for not adequately supporting Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli. And some establishment Republican will contend that McAuliffe’s victory proves that Tea Party conservatives cannot win in swing states.
And that will all be wrong. Should Cuccinelli as expected, lose, there will be a number of reasons for his defeat, with standing out. First, he was a lousy candidate who ran a lousy campaign, never really putting forward a positive message. And, second (somewhat related to the first), McAuliffe is a prolific fundraiser, able to raise millions of dollars to run a nasty campaign against the Republican. In other words, he basically followed the Obama ’12 game plan. He out-raised and outspent the Republican, going early to the airwaves to smear his opponent.
It’s all the Democrats have left–demonizing the Republicans.
And Cuccinellli made an easy target. Sean Trende explains:
Cuccinelli’s problem in a nutshell is this: The Old Dominion would probably vote for a candidate who had sued a professor at the University of Virginia over his climate science research. It would probably vote for a candidate who referred to homosexuality as unnatural. It would probably vote for a candidate who tried to limit no-fault divorce. It would probably vote for a candidate who covered up an exposed breast on the state seal. It would probably vote for a candidate who wasn’t sure if the president was born in the United States. It would probably vote for a candidate who told colleges and universities to strip protections for gays and lesbians.
What it won’t typically do is vote for a candidate who holds all of these positions, and is unapologetic in them. Truth be told, Virginia hasn’t been particularly fond of strident social conservatives for quite some time; Oliver North, Michael Farris, Mark Earley, and a host of other similar Republicans have met similar fates.
Read the whole thing.
Now, it could happen that opposition to Obamacare helps the Republican secure a come-from-behind victory. And that would be significant.
Whatever the results, Virginia voters have had a lousy choice this year. Cuccinelli, to be sure, did show an understanding of state government that the Democrat did not. Indeed, McAuliffe, while being very much up to campaigning, stumbled in the debates on issues related to the state government, indicating that he is not much up to governing. (Sound familiar?)
As the campaign grinds to a close, Cuccinelli has been seizing on the Obamacare issue. And sleazy attempts to tie the GOP nominee to the unpopular law notwithstanding, he has long opposed it. Yet, he has not offered much of a positive agenda. (Alas, the sad choice Virginians have today; I’m glad I no longer live in the commonwealth.)
What can Republicans learn from Virginia? That you need nominate a candidate who can appeal to both the Tea Party and establishment wings of the party. That the candidate needs to have a positive message. And that he needs as well to be swift in countering Democratic attacks. Just as Romney allowed Obama to define him in 2012, Cuccinelli allowed McAuliffe do define him. (Without piles of campaign cash where would Democrats be in the era of Obama?)
The attacks worked for Mr. Obama in 2012 — as they did for a number of Democratic Senators elected that year (and for at least three reelected in 2010). Democrats are going to try this again in 2014 (it’s all they have). And Republicans need be prepared.