WINNERS AND LOSERS: 2012 EDITIONEditorialFeaturedPoliticsVirginia

The navel gazing now over, the haze broken, the clouds lifted… the reality has officially set in.

Of course, early cries from moderates within the GOP over how certain constituencies simply didn’t back Romney are being met with wide derision across the conservative blogosphere this week.  Charles Krauthammer takes deadly aim at most of the critics:

Republicans lost the election not because they advanced a bad argument but because they advanced a good argument not well enough. Romney ran a solid campaign, but he is by nature a Northeastern moderate. He sincerely adopted the new conservatism but still spoke it as a second language.

Ouch…. but accurate.

The simple fact of the matter is that Republicans got beat on the ground.  The air attack and centralized command and control of the conservative movement failed spectacularly; the idea that social conservatives, Hispanics, Catholics, and others will simply “come along for the ride because hey… who the hell else do you have to vote for?” just fell flat with a massive thud.

Of course, 2013 will inevitably be the conservative resurgency.  The question is, what form will it take?

WINNERS:

Barack Obama:  Hell, he won didn’t he?

Tim Kaine:  … and Senator Tim Kaine at that, as vicious a partisan as any Democrat in Virginia history, too.  Expect no Tom Perriello here — Kaine is a progressive in the Obama mold, and he will vote, fundraise, and recruit.  Interesting to note that both Kaine and Obama hail from the same progressive Catholic social justice portion of society… I know these guys well enough to know that they will not settle for election day.  Brace yourselves for “change” and hope you can endure…

Ken Cuccinelli:  In a convention, people will be looking for clear ideas and clear answers — in short, a vision that unites.  Cuccinelli has a golden moment to do precisely this.

Mark Warner:  If he runs for governor in 2013, he is the odds-on favorite to win.  If he runs for U.S. Senate in 2014, he will more than likely survive the wave and win re-election.  Warner represents the last of a dying breed of Virginia Democrat: pro-business, pay as you go, and non-activist.   Well, apart from the massive and unnecessary 2004 tax hike, that is… but that didn’t hurt him in 2008, eh?

Eric Cantor:  Unassailable.  Someone probably needs to ask Mudcat whether he has orange paint on his fingertips… before he’s put out to pasture.  That’s the end of that.

PUSH:

Bill Bolling:  The road might have been a bit easier with Senator George Allen at the helm.  That is no longer possible.  With McDonnell focusing on 2014 aspirations to the U.S. Senate (especially if Warner decides he would rather be Governor again rather than run for what has got to be a frustrating experience in the U.S. Senate), Bolling’s very early rush to the middle only hurts him in a convention format, where the party faithful will be looking to send a message first, and concerned about the electoral math a distant second.

The Virginia Blogosphere:  I’ll be honest… I was expecting the battle royale to begin anew.  Where was Blue Virginia?  The old days of mass exchange and well formed ideas conceded to 140-character witticism and Facebook posts.  Call me a troglodyte… but I prefer the old way better.

Social Conservatives:  Well… the consultants said they could turn them out — Ralph Reed and so forth.  Survey says… nope.  Not only did they not turn out the Christian conservative base, these groups attempted to astroturf just about everything about it: bus tours, knock and drags, robocalls, phone banking, heaps of trash thrown away rather than incorporated into a database, etc.  The professional consultants failed in the name of social conservatives, while the rank-and-file were simply bypassed, unenergized, and deflated.  What would change for them under Romney?  The answer was nothing… and today, the calls are to jettison them over the edge?  No good… the GOP now has a different problem.  Rather than in 2008 where there was talk of throwing SoCos overboard, in 2012 the social conservatives have already left (see: Florida, Ohio, Virginia).  What, pray tell, is the GOP going to do to bring them back into the fold?  Much less the Tea Party, libertarians, fiscal conservatives, Hispanics, etc…

LOSERS:

The Republican Party of Virginia:  Now I’m a bit of a softie when it comes to the Republican Party of Virginia.  Hobbled by lack of support from the electeds, there’s only so much state party can do.  What they could do, they did.  What they couldn’t do?  GOTV and EDO operations.  The well-known infighting between RPV Victory and the George Allen campaign is more than likely what put Virginia in the blue column (or at least, helped that effort considerably).  Still, as an organization… we need to get things done.  Four years ago I printed the blueprint, and leading lights such as Bearing Drift’s own Alton Foley and the late Tucker Watkins added on.  It’s not hard to redirect our efforts — especially in the wake of all that third party spending on air attack when grassroots was the better bang for the buck.

Terry McCauliffe:  Mark Warner for Governor?  Ouch… cut a deal while you can, man.

The Democratic Party of Virginia:  Everyone knows they were AWOL this election.   Everyone knows the front office is in trouble.  Everyone knows the voter fraud scandal with Jim Moran’s son is going to hurt.  Their only saving grace?  RPV isn’t much better off…

Republican Polling Outfits:  Are our optics really that off?  Well… yes… and is anyone going to fix the problem?  Heck — if we can’t get voter lists sorted out, how the heck are we going to get modern polling sorted out?  Where the hell is our Nate Silver?  Our Kenton Ngo?  Ah yes… we find them, and then we tear them down rather than build them up.  Such is the culture in Virginia…

Northeastern Moderates:  The era of the Rockerfeller Republican is dead.  Not because the party doesn’t need them — we do — but can they provide an all-encompassing vision for the conservative majority?  Clearly and demonstrably not.

 * * *

There is only one other person that I will mention apart from all the win/lose/draw analysis, and that is former Governor George Allen who more than likely has seen the very last campaign of his political career.

My first campaign job as a volunteer was with George Allen back in 1993.  The previous year?  I worked as a volunteer for Bill Clinton ’92 — yes folks, once upon a time I was a Democrat… until I was thrown out after I announced that I was Catholic, pro-life, and pro-family (true story, too).  So I was in the wilderness until I heard the siren song of “Jeffersonian Conservatism” — and from that point forward, I was hooked.

My first internship was with then-Governor Allen in the Virginia Liaison Office in 1996-7 under Terri Hauser.  I volunteered again in 2000 with George Allen’s campaign for U.S. Senate, more so to excise the ghosts of Democrat Chuck Robb’s sneer into the microphone in 1994 of “how sweet it is!” to the cheering throngs of Democratic faithful.  Back then, that was when I realized I could not be a part of a group so obtuse and disdainful towards their opposition.  Allen showed none of this in his victory speech… again, a class act.

When “macaca” hit in 2006, I was running a campaign out in Colorado.  The Virginia blogosphere went bezerk.  From thousands of miles away, I could only work the periphery.  Jon Henke, who has now emerged as a leading new media consultant in Washington, was my first recommendation for a new media co-ordinator.  It stopped the bleeding, but it could not turn back the tide of several serious missteps made by Dick Wadhams and company.  Because of those missteps, Allen lost by a handful of votes — all because a few consultants tried to make Allen something he was not.

Allen’s 2012 bid steered him towards women, independents, and seniors — a different race than the one I suspect Allen wanted to run in his heart.  For myself, Allen gave us parental notification, abolished parole, froze college tuition  and offered a credible and serious path towards recapturing the seat he won from Chuck Robb back in 2000.  As a Republican backbencher in the U.S. Senate, he had to take some tough choices I am beyond confident Allen would not have made as governor.  Tea Party candidates did not let him forget this.  Yet instead of losing to credible challengers, Allen rose up and captured 2/3rds in the primary contest and approximately half of the Tea Party support.

Last Tuesday did not go well.  Allen was on the cusp, but a conflation of poor ground game, some abandonment from Victory staffers who focused much more on Romney than on Allen, and a national climate that knew what it opposed but kept searching for what it stood for probably conspired against Allen’s 2012 comeback victory.  Had Allen been allowed to campaign hard on energy, who knows?  Of course, when every room has a cameraphone… the world of campaigning becomes a very different place.  It’s not easy having the “all seeing eye” on you 24/7…

At the end of the day, Allen’s presence will not diminish in Virginia Republican circles.  Allen still has a good 20 years of public service in him yet, if the longevity of John Warner is any indicator.  Perhaps in an era where Republicans (even nationally) are trying to find their voice again, a revisitation of “Jeffersonian conservative principles” is in order?  Certainly, now more than ever, Virginia Republicans need clear voices at the front.

Allen’s chapter as a candidate may have closed.  As a conservative leader, Allen has the opportunity — should he choose — to shape the next generation of Virginia Republican leadership.  

For one, I hope he takes it.

 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1427002848 James Cohen

    This is a good writeup Shaun cept for the bit about the challenger. Allen blew it with the Tea Party faithful and libertarian republicans by not earning the respect and support of all 3 primary challengers. Had he not been so arrogant and so poorly advised he would have had an opportunity to unify enough to win. This was Allens race to lose. What a dork. All he needed was to embrace what was at his fingertips and he would not call for the meeting he needed. There is no reason to blame the folks at Victory. They knew Allen was sceered of his own shadow and was not going to pull it off long ago, not with the big numbers he was hauling in while polling so weak. This is what happens when grass roots conservative and libertarian Tea Party republicans are treated so rudely. As for some of Allens staffers, without a doubt among the rudest of ANY campaign I have come across in Virginia. Tim Kaine Won big by betting the farm on Allen’s ego, selfishness, vulnerabilities and arrogance. And his message stank like rotting roadkill to people who know his record.. His senate record.. Yeah, that record.. Not the governor Allen was that his campaign kept referring to.

    • http://bearingdrift.com/ J.R. Hoeft

      Perhaps, Turbo, this is a a two-way street. Tea Party supporters can, and should, be strong in their convictions without trying to tear into every conservative who doesn’t agree with them 100%, as evidenced even here by your comment. This is still Virginia, where conducting yourself with a little dignity and respect for those you disagree with goes along way.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1427002848 James Cohen

        I agree JR. The problem is what the definition of IS is.. What IS conservative? If George were the principled and conservative man as advertised he would have debated his challengers honorably. Instead he debated Tim Kaine during the primary pretty much cauterizing many conservatives who remain dissatisfied with GOP leaders who disregard them.

        • http://bearingdrift.com/ J.R. Hoeft

          Debating Kaine before the primaries really even began was a mistake. I disagreed with Allen doing it back then and think it was, perhaps, his greatest unforced error of this campaign. Going forward, though, I still maintain that civility is going to go a long way towards uniting conservatives.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1427002848 James Cohen

            We were civil, see what it got us? The establishment just landed a sucker punch on grassroots conservatives in the party and a double smack down on conservatives who are independents.. whose numbers will now swell. We have too many conservatives, libertarians and even moderates frustrated with the liberals who deny they are in fact liberals who also run our party and run under the umbrella of the republican banner so they can win local non partisan elections and inject themselves into politics. We have this problem here in Virginia Beach. An Obama supporter who was deeply involved with OFA in 08 joined the RP of Va Beach and promptly jumped in to run for School Board. It is well known this is merely an entry point for higher office, the newly minted school board member has the support of our republican mayor (who supported Wagner over Bolling in 09 and now supports Warner if he enters the race) and he also had the support of the Obama HQ, signs at Obama HQ and…. drum roll please.. this republicans campaign literature was distributed by SEIU.

            Yeah, we need civility.. in the morgue. We need to have a real discussion and we need to address the problems we have in our party, not sweep them under the rug. It WILL be painful JR. Today we have to pay good money for help and all too often it is no match for motivated volunteers. We would not be so dependent on GOTV if we had republican candidates whose passion and principles served as the call for volunteers and excited an excited base.

            Wouldn’t we attract more conservative and libertarian independents if we simply read our own party creed along with the U.S. Constitution and referred to it more often?

  • Darrell

    Cantor is Unassailable? He’s more vulnerable than you think. So is Cooch because he left homeowners and women swinging in the breeze. The GOP never learns. Maybe someday you will see that you have no winners in the current party. Remember way back when they were winning, it was the people who were important?

  • AlexanderHamiltonLives

    Loser: Conservative blogosphere. Hate to say it, but it was as delusional as I’ve ever seen it in Virginia. Anyone who went north of the Rappahannock in October and actually looked around and talked to people understood what was about to happen. If you live in NoVa, you could see the vote was going to be decisively for Obama not only in Fairfax, but also in Prince William! I was in Woodbridge the weekend b/f the election, and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Romney was about to get swamped in PWC. It didn’t take a lot of detective work to figure it out by October. And yet, even on this blog, which I admire, you had post after post from the authors implying “the polls were wrong” and I believe Mr. Leahy had a post saying to expect a big victory.

    Loser: GOP in Stafford/Spotsylvania……..There are a lot of issues on the ground there and it showed. Romney took all of 54% in Stafford and 55% in Spotsy. I believe Bush won 63% in both jurisdictions in 2004. Obviously demographics are an issue in NoVa, but these two jurisdictions are still heavily white. Which should lead someone with critical thinking skills to not just examine the demographic problem but also study why a lot of white exurban voters in these jurisdictions pulled the lever for Obama instead of Romney.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1427002848 James Cohen

      This is what happens when someone we don’t know calls themself an extremely conservative republican.. after supporting pro choice 10 years prior… Has anyone seen the video of Romney accepting the endorsement of Planned Parenthood? “He was not pro life, not pro choice, he was multiple choice”.. Can’t make this stuff up. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_w9pquznG4