There’s been much gnashing of teeth and second-guessing among Republicans since Tuesday night’s election results both here and elsewhere. To delve a bit deeper into this, I think it is instructive to look at the winners and losers among Republicans to see what lessons can be learned.
The 2013 GOP Gubernatorial Nominee — Whether it is Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling or Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Republicans are well-positioned to keep the top executive spot in Virginia next year. For whatever reason, Virginians are contrarians and for decades have rewarded the party opposite that of the one in the White House with the governorship of the Commonwealth. For all the vaunted talk of Virginia becoming a blue state after 2008, Bob McDonnell crushed Creigh Deeds just a year later. While President Obama proved that he still can turn out the vote for himself, he has been unable to transfer his GOTV machine to other candidates when he is not appearing on the ballot — which will be never again. In 2012, Obama’s vote total in Virginia was down 66,000 while Mitt Romney’s vote total was up 57,000 over John McCain’s 2008 total. If anything, one could argue that Virginia has become less Democratic and more Republican in the last four years despite this year’s statewide losses.
House Republicans — All 8 GOP members of the Virginia congressional delegation were handily reelected. This was the one bright spot both in Virginia and nationally on Tuesday night.
Artur Davis — The former Democrat Member of Congress from Alabama who has been a Virginia resident for a few years now has made an excellent impression in the Commonwealth. From giving the seconding speech nominating Barack Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention to being a featured speaker at the 2012 Republican National Convention and a top Romney / Ryan campaign surrogate in Virginia, Davis worked his heart out. If he chooses to run for Congress in the 11th Dist. where he lives against Gerry Connolly, he stands an excellent chance in 2014. Connolly just barely cracked 60% and garnered over 168,000 votes in 2012 with the Obama tailwind aiding him and he had the good fortune of running against a Republican who thought he could run an almost entirely grassroots campaign that didn’t require him to raise a lot of money. Four years before in the old 11th district before it was gerrymandered, Connolly only got 55%, but won over 196,000 votes that year. Keep this in mind, in 2012 Chris Perkins won 100,000 against Connolly in the new district while Connolly only won 111,000 in the old district in 2010. If Connolly were to see a similar drop of 85,000 votes / 43 percent decline from presidential year to mid-term next go round, he’d have lost anywhere from 4 in 10 to more than half of all his votes.
Retread Candidates — This was the case in Virginia and nationally where you had solid candidates like George Allen and Tommy Thompson go down to defeat. Although both were outspent by their liberal foes, each had solid records and name ID that should have enabled them to overcome the negative onslaughts they had to endure. Neither did. The top of the ticket losing each of their states didn’t help them, but it was clear that voters were either too removed from their prior service or were simply looking for fresh faces. (Artur Davis would be an exception as he is a fresh face in Virginia.)
Pete Snyder — Virginia Victory was a dud, plain and simple. Despite Republicans increasing their vote total by 57,000 between 2008 and 2012, that is a feat that our old friend Ham Sandwich could have accomplished. It was clear from the start that Snyder was using Virginia Victory as the launching pad for his own race for Lt. Governor. People were openly talking about him running from the moment he was appointed. Maybe if he had spent more time concentrating on actually winning 2012 instead of raising his own profile for 2013 he could have increased turnout more than an inanimate deli product could have.
Prince William County Republicans — In PWC, Romney outperformed McCain by 7,000 votes, but Obama actually outperformed his 2008 total by 10,000 votes. In neighboring Loudoun County, Obama bested his 2008 total by approximately 7,000 votes, but Romney received 10,000 votes more than McCain did. Even though Obama still won Loudoun, it was by a much narrower margin than it was in 2008. As some have pointed out to me (and this goes beyond just PWC and to the larger problem with RPV / Virginia Victory), locally elected Republican officials who have the closest relationships with their constituents and thus the credibility to make the case to them as to why the Romney / Ryan ticket and George Allen were the best choices from the local perspective were AWOL for the most part. It doesn’t help that the current Board of County Supervisors has gone on a spree over several years of approving numerous multi-family housing units which tend to harbor Democratic voters.
Bill Bolling — Bolling was an early supporter of both Mitt Romney and George Allen while his 2013 gubernatorial foe Cuccinelli sat out both races until nominees were declared. Many convention goers will question Bolling’s judgment on what a winning candidate looks like and thus his own ability to win in 2013. Don’t forget, in 2009 Cuccinelli received 18,000 MORE votes than Bolling did in the General Election and that race was down ballot from his. If Bolling is the nominee, I still believe that he will win as I stated above, but I believe that 2012 will be an anchor on his campaign against Cuccinelli for the nomination.
Am I wrong or am I right? Let’s hear your thoughts on who the Virginia GOP winners and losers were.