I’ve heard it repeated it for years.
“When the Republican party runs moderates we lose. When we run real conservatives we win.”
Reagan recommended the Republicans paint in “bold colors” rather than “pastels” to offer voters a clear choice, that would presumably favor Republicans. And after watching the McCain and Romney defeats, this belief that Republicans only lose when they run moderate candidates seemed to be verified yet again. Then a funny thing happened in New Jersey and Virginia. In New Jersey, a moderate Republican crushed his Democrat opponent. In Virginia, a conservative Republican lost to his Democrat opponent. An argument can be made that New Jersey is a blue state and therefore the normal rule of conservatism trumping moderation in elections does not apply. But Virginia is not a blue state.
In the Virginia Gubernatorial race Ken Cuccinelli lost to Terry McAuliffe. Ken Cuccinelli is currently the Attorney General of Virginia and had won all four of his previous elections. Terry McAuliffe has never held any elected office and only ran once before, losing in the primaries for the Democratic nomination in the last Gubernatorial election. What happened in the Virginia election has been widely discussed among the political class and has become the example of the the “establishment” Republicans fighting the conservative/Tea Party for control of the future. I could list the actions taken by the establishment Republicans against Cuccinelli– from the cutting off of funding by the RNC on October 1st, to Lt. Governor Bill Bolling (he dropped out of the race against Cuccinelli when the party voted to have a convention rather than a primary) and Governor McDonnell (who supported Bolling initially) calling big money Republican supporters and asking they not support Cuccinelli– but I’ll leave that to others. McAuliffe was the number one fundraiser for the Clintons and everyone knew he would raise a ton of cash from his national list of big money Democrat supporters. In the end he raised double the amount of Cuccinelli and outspent Cuccinelli between 10-1 and 25-1 the final weeks of the campaign.
But that doesn’t change the fact that an established conservative with four successful campaigns under his belt (he was outspent by his opponent in each of his victories as well) lost to an ultra-liberal, with no elected office experience, a very shady business history, an equally shady political history including his master-mindining of “renting” out the Lincoln Bedroom and seats on Air Force 1, and a personal history including leaving his crying wife and new born baby in the car on the way home from the hospital to make a showing at a Democratic fundraiser, which he bragged about in his autobiography. We ran a real “conservative” against a fairly weak opponent and lost.
Conservatives can blame the “establishment”, the media, the Libertarians– whose candidate was assisted financially by a billionaire Obama supporter to get on the ticket, the Federal government shut down, a weak and divisive Lt. Governor candidate (anti-gay statements made from his pulpit at his church), the growth of the Federal government adding more Democrat voters to Northern Virginia, poor advice from his campaign consultants, etc…
I feel conservatives are fighting unsuccessful tactical battles against an opponent that is using strategic media warfare to make Republicans unelectable– which allows formerly unelectable Democrats to become the lesser of two evils and therefore not only electable but the likely winner.
By calling upon their associates/friends/supporters in the media they can label their opponents before they can define themselves. The “War on Women” campaign used against Romney very successfully worked just as well against Cuccinelli. Single women are voting in greater numbers and at higher percentages against Republicans than ever before. McAuliffe’s treatment of his wife did not make them consider who they were voting for. They heard again and again that if Cuccinelli won he would outlaw birth control and abortion. And they voted with that false knowledge against a perceived “threat”. By demonizing the Republicans so effectively as a “brand” rather than focusing on individual politicians, the Democrats have put themselves in a position to nominate virtually anyone for any office regardless of their ability, experience, or personal views or behavior. Their candidate will always be seen as the lesser of two evils allowing for victory of their most extreme, party obedient, zealots. When the candidate is the least important piece of the campaign it allows for party faithful to be rewarded with elected office, rather than the most competent and capable or candidates whose ideas represent their constituents. This allowed the Democrats to attain a high level of ideological purity among their elected officials. They in turn use the power at their disposal to support the party financially through programs that funnel money to supporters who in turn donate back to the party.
The Democrats have mastered “Plug and Play Politics”.
With their ability to demonize any Republican using proven, focus group approved, attacks on Republicans, they have allowed the most radical members of the Democrat party to take complete control. And all active Democrats know that if they don’t give 100% support to the national party, they are easily replaced. The Democrats can run virtually anyone for any office and have a better than 50-50 chance to win the election through the personal destruction of their opponent.
Meanwhile Republicans try to win each election based on “issues”. They refer to those on the other side of the aisle as “friends”. Republicans like to run gentlemanly campaigns. We avoid “slinging mud”. And we attempt to defend when attacked, rather than attack back. And we lose. Then we look at our campaign and point to “bad” candidates, consultants, fund raising, media bias, “low information voters”, etc… What we don’t do is look at our opponents success, we are too busy analyzing our failure.
The Democrats are following a fairly simple 70-20-10 campaign plan. They spend the first 70% of the campaign season defining the Republican candidate with negative advertisements and their media sympathizers. Then, after laying the groundwork of making their opponent unelectable due to his “extremism”, there is a brief reprieve from the attack advertisements as the Democrats run advertisements claiming their candidate is a bipartisan, reach across the aisle, “moderate” with 30%-10% of the campaign left. When only 10% of the campaign is left, the attack advertisements return until election day to ensure the electorate is freshly reminded of what a bad guy the Republican truly is, ensuring the low-information voters dislike the Republican, and that the Republican leaning voters will not bother voting.