Well, it is Wednesday and the first thing that needs to be said is it is time to unify behind our nominees. There are some bruises that need to heal, some fences that need to be mended, but we all need to support our candidates 100%. After all, that is what Ronald Reagan would do.
Looking at trends, can we draw any conclusions about what happened? It would appear that the rudder pulled away from the recent trend toward Tea Party candidates and hard-core conservatives and more towards “mainstream” candidates while continuing the recent anti-incumbent vibe. Here is how I reach that conclusion:
Howell v. Stimpson: Without getting into the specifics of the how the campaigns were run (we are being positive for the Gipper,) there is little doubt that Howell is the definition of mainstream Republican. While he is solid on many conservative issues, there is nothing about him that is Tea Party and he is definitely not afraid to compromise to get things done. He is also the definition of incumbent, but that apparently didn’t come into play here. Stimpson is the opposite in every way, running hard-right on social issues and is generally considered the darling of the Tea Party. This race obviously doesn’t fit the anti-incumbent trend, but it is the clearest example of the electorate going for the mainstream, establishment Republican over the Tea Party conservative.
Chase v. Martin v. Moore: This was the biggest upset in the minds of many people, though those on the ground in Chesterfield saw some writing on the wall with Chase’s spectacular grass-roots ground game (h/t Steve Albertson @ TBE) dwarfing the operations of the established Martin and the novice Moore. The race really came down to Chase v. Martin, and if you leave their individual qualities aside, the two candidates are actually very similar on the big issues. So this was a race about personality and running the best campaign. Chase dominated in both those areas. There is no doubt that Chase was backed by the Tea Party, but this backing was similar to what Dave Brat received – endorsements of the anti-incumbent more than Chase being a true Tea Party candidate like Haley or Stimpson. That said, no one would consider Chase mainstream or establishment either… so this one is anti-incumbency combined with an extremely well executed campaign.
Janis v. Dunnavant v. Haley v. Whitlock: This is a race I misjudged, mostly by thinking the Tea Party was a stronger influence than it turned out to be. I saw Haley having a real chance as Janis and Dunnavent (and Whitlock) split the same pool of voters. Haley was the most pure Tea Party candidate in any of these races, and this is the largest repudiation of the Tea Party’s influence we saw state-wide. I am not denigrating the Tea Party here, I think they have a vital place in the party – but just being Tea Party is not enough anymore. In a comment on Bearing Drift, Bob Scott had the right of it:
That pool [mainstream Republicans] is MUCH bigger than Haley’s and is motivated to show up after 2014. Haley hasn’t received the traction Brat had. It was a monumental mistake to try an re-run the Cantor/Brat race without a boogeyman incumbent.
This will become clear tonight. Haley hasn’t been in this for a long time, as evidenced by the amount of time his staffers spend on the comment’s section here and on Facebook. I was up at the Ashland Strawberry Faire this weekend. Haley had to pull his booth, presumably because of a lack of funds. They were the only campaign without materials at the Hanover GOP booth as well.
They have a few core supporters who are beating the drum very loudly but no real support.
The loud drum of the Haley supporters fooled me and I didn’t pay enough attention to the heart of the race, Dunnavant v. Janis. In some real ways this was actually Stosch v. Janis – and there are some old scores to settle there, with some rumors that Janis’s threatened primary of Stosch is one factor that led to the Senator’s retirement. Dunnavant was Stosch’s hand-picked candidate to beat Jannis and was given the keys to his entire political operation. Janis is definitely established and well-known in the district, but Stosch’s machine is bigger and more established. Also, while the Dunnavant campaign definitely had its share of hiccups, many well documented in the blogosphere, the one thing she managed to do is avoid being labeled as the establishment/incumbent candidate – despite both Stosch and Stolle ties. Instead, Janis was seen as the “incumbent” and “establishment” candidate with Dunnavant as the fresh-faced outsider. (Amanda Chase did the same thing despite her strong political background.) Coupled with this, Dunnavant was seen as the more “mainstream Republican” candidate with Janis as the more aggressive/extreme conservative. So Dunnavant had all the advantages of in incumbent through Stosch’s machine, but still kept the “fresh face” outsider label and wasn’t seen as harshly conservative as Janis. It is clear that this appealed to the mainstream base came out strong in this election, and they chose the fresh-face mainstreamer over the pseudo-incumbent conservative.
Berg v. Collins: This race actually has some similarities to Dunnavant v. Janis v. Haley. Berg is an aggressive hard-core Tea Party conservative and was the actual (not pseudo) incumbent. Collins is not the pseudo-political outsider that Dunnavant was, but he does have an established machine in place and is definitely the more mainstream-friendly candidate. So we have anti-incumbent adding together with the move away from the Tea Party and the trend towards mainstream conservatives all coming together in this race and handing the big upset to Collins.
The rest of the races speak for themselves, I believe, but what we saw could be considered a market-correction against the Tea Party wave that has been breaking in Virginia over the past couple of years. (And again, I think the Tea Party movement is a vital part of the Republican modern party and should continue to exert its influence within the umbrella of the GOP.) However, anti-incumbency is still going strong. Also, I think we saw the re-engagement of the mainstream Republican rather than the sprint to the hard right that has also been the trend of late. Either way, I think we have a strong set of candidates that everyone should be able to get behind, and I hope that we can unite the party behind them because the Senate of Virginia up for grabs this year and it is going to take all-hands on deck to keep the Senate Republican as an essential check against Terry McAullife.