I just received this message from a long-time Virginia Republican campaign professional who I have known for a number of years. We hope that he will consider joining us here at Virtucon in the near future as a contributor.
I read some of your election post-mortem. Unless there’s something really unusual that no one knows about yet, you are correct that it’s over for George Allen, and it just didn’t have to be that way. I am in full rant mode on this. I have serious concerns about the current direction of our state party. The way the Kilgore campaign last year and the Allen campaign this year were conducted was astounding. There were good people in both campaigns who did a great job trying to fix a broken ship (for example, the Allen campaign took a definite step upwards when Mike Thomas came on board full-time towards the end of September, and some of their field people, like Trixie Averill, did their usual great job). However, the sad fact is that most of the staff in both of those campaigns was made up of very inexperienced people who had little or no experience in the day-to-day of campaigns. I have managed a number of tough, winning legislative races in Virginia, and am very familiar personally with the team that ran Webb’s campaign and the sleazy personal tactics that are their standard MO. I very much wanted to work in both the Kilgore and Allen campaigns (both are longtime friends of mine who deserved better than what they got), but I couldn’t even get phone calls returned. Instead, the staff was made up people who simply didn’t have the experience level to know what to do in a tough race. I have heard from three different sources that a number of the Allen staffers this year were hired with the promise of an easy job in 2006 and then already being on board “for the next step.” If those folks couldn’t handle a competitive Senate race, how could they have handled a Presidential race? It’s not their fault the race became competitive (that was caused by Senator Allen’s personal mistakes, along with the overall bad political environment and Virginia’s changing demographics), but once the race became competitive, they were s imply not equipped to handle it. It’s not just that I feel hurt (I don’t mind using that word) and betrayed by a number of folks in the party whom I had thought were my friends. More importantly, it’s that this insistence on hiring inexperienced people to work in these races is costing our party elections we should be winning, and now it appears to have cost our party control of the United States Senate. I hope these people are very, very proud of themselves.
I agree that we need to avoid a bloodbath in 2008. However, and this may seem contradictory, I also think we need to encourage a large number of candidates, particularly some “outside the box” type candidates, to seek the Presidency. I think yesterday’s results show that the country wants a new direction, not just a different party in control, and I think we need to be able to choose from a wide variety of candidates in order to find that new direction. I know the frontrunners right now are McCain, Guiliani, and Romney, but I think all three of them have problems that could prevent them from winning the nomination, and if it’s not one of them, it has to be someone else. I absolutely think Jim Gilmore should move forward and explore a Presidential candidacy. He is very good at delivering a strong message on both national security and fiscal issues that can fire up the base without turning off the rest of the country. I don’t think Duncan Hunter fits the bill of what we need, but, by all means, if he wants to run, he should take his best shot and make his case. With the field being as wide open as it is, I think it may get even wider after yesterday (particularly since George Allen has long since squandered his opportunity to be the consensus conservative choice). The critical caveat is that all of these candidates need to run issue-oriented campaigns that will make the party stronger once we have a nominee, and stay away from a bitter, divisive nominating contest.
As for the conservatives who were frustrated and chose to send the President a message by staying home, my message is this: Remember that message when the Democrat Congress passes bad but politically popular legislation such as raising the minimum wage and forces the President into the position of either having to issue politically unpopular vetoes that could further hurt Republican candidates in 2008 and beyond or having to sign into law bad legislation. Remember that message when the President has to spend the next two years fighting off congressional investigations that, in addition to being factually baseless, could seriously undermine our War on Terror. Remember that message when the President is forced to acknowledge the reality that he no longer has any hope of getting strict constructionist judges confirmed and has to settle for folks that the Democrat Senate will confirm.
Finally, I strongly believe that our congressional leadership needs a serious overhaul. I’ve never thought Hastert was a particularly effective leader, and I honestly haven’t been that impressed by Boehner, and I don’t think Roy Blunt is the right person in the current environment. I think a perfect choice for Minority Leader would be Eric Cantor. In the Senate, it’s always been assumed that Mitch McConnell would succeed Frist as Leader. However, I don’t think McConnell is the right choice. I’m not sure who the best person is, but I think serious consideration should be given to Kay Bailey Hutchison, and possibly to John Sununu as well.