Nearly crashing into two deer on my way back home last night from Charlottesville quickly clarified a few things for me about the race and the results:
1. Most of the polls in this race were utterly useless at the end. Maybe it was the presence of a third-party candidate, or perhaps it was something deeper. No matter. The polls showing this was a margin of error race were the best ones out there…and that includes Bearing Drift’s poll in September.
2. Obamacare is toxic for Democrats. As the stories continue to mount about people losing their coverage, it only becomes more so. My writing partner Paul Goldman explained it this way (interestingly enough, on Halloween):
Fact: Unless something unexpected happens, Obamacare will be a LOSING SOUNDBITE ISSUE through election day next Tuesday.
Yep, it was — such a big loser that it nearly cut The Macker’s legs, and the millions he spent on attack ads, out from under him. Which brings up the next item…
3. McAuliffe’s parade of Democratic luminaries was a HUGE risk that almost cost him the election. Given that his own substantial negatives, and the nastiness of his campaign, McAuliffe almost had no choice but to bring in the Clintons and the President to buoy his base. But when you’re spending time and money trying to motivate your base voters late in the campaign, you’re losing (a lesson that applies to Cuccinelli, too).
4. No government shutdown could have meant that Cuccinelli wins. Others will disagree with this. But during the weeks the federal government was partially idled, that was the only story. The horrendous Obamacare debut took a back seat. Had the national parties not been playing their game of chicken, with Virginia getting plucked, the Cuccinelli campaign gets to start hammering Obamacare much earlier and with much greater force. Or so one would hope. As Shaun wrote, there’s no reason to expect, given its past messaging bungles, that the Cuccinelli campaign would have pushed as hard in early October on Obamacare as they did in the final days. Take away the shutdown, though, and the possibility is there.
5. Mark Warner is in danger. Yes he is. Virtually no one will agree with me on this point. Warner is too popular, too pragmatic and just too nimble to be caught by any surprises. And those folks would be right, save for this video (the embedding has been disabled since I first posted it…nice).
“I’m not going to support a healthcare reform plan that’s going to take away the healthcare you’ve got right now or a healthcare plan that you like.”
He voted for it. People are losing their plans. Mark Warner owns Obamacare — free and clear, warts and all.
6. Lastly, the circular firing squads will be out in force on the GOP side. I’m sure that among the targets will be anyone who voted for Robert Sarvis, the RNC, the “establishment” and any number of other hobgoblins.
Do changes need to be made in the GOP apparatus? Sure. But never forget that politics is a game of addition and Republicans need to find a way to expand both their reach and their warchest. And along with that comes a bit of a history lesson. The great Barnie Day explained it this way:
Candidates are forever blathering on about the “future,” as in “the future of our children” and similar clap-trap, knowing all the time that the future is myth in politics, that the electorate-and the electorate is this middle 40 percent–always, always, always votes the past, the immediate past, and how it relates to their individual issues.
If they feel good about the immediate past, they vote to stay the course and choose Door Number 1. If they don’t feel good about it, they vote for change and choose Door Number 2. All the Big Ideas are behind Door Number 3. Few people wander there.
Terry McAuliffe, if he is capable, may have learned this lesson — we shall see. Mark Warner had best take it to heart. And the GOP should tattoo it to their foreheads.
Oh and one more thing: deer are an unmitigated menace. Bambi delenda est.