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Don't blame Bush

By Charles Bloomer
web posted November 21, 2005

The recent Virginia elections provide nothing of significance that could lead to any conclusions about voter attitudes.  Neither Republicans nor Democrats can declare any kind of a mandate.  In addition, trying to declare any kind of national level impact would be an enormous stretch.

In the case of Virginia's elections, politics was truly local.  The failure of Jerry Kilgore to win the governorship had more to do with his lackluster campaign than with any Bush administration problems.  If there were, as Democrats are trying to claim, a high level of disagreement with National Republicans, Virginians would not have elected Republicans as Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General (the AG race has not been officially declared as of this writing).

Tim Kaine, the Governor-elect, rode to victory on the popularity (which I don't understand) of the current Democrat Governor and the lack of interest of the Virginia Conservatives. 

Kilgore failed to energize the Conservatives while he tried to pander to Liberal Northern Virginia.  He should have known better - the Northern Virginia counties went for Kaine by 70%.  The Kilgore campaign never found a unifying message that Conservatives could latch hold of.  There was never any serious discussion of tax cuts or smaller government - basic Conservative issues.  About the only memorable political ad run by Kilgore attacked Kaine for being against the death penalty, hardly sufficient to get right wing voters excited. The avoidance of core issues, plus the arrogant, disrespectful treatment of some pro-gun groups alienated many on the right.

By contrast, Bill Bolling running for Lt. Gov. never abandoned his Conservative position.  Bolling has a strong Conservative background that he used to his advantage.  In the Attorney General race, the Republican, Bob McDonnell is in a tight race probably because he was a tad too Conservative.  If he had gone squishy, he would have lost.

I must take exception to Delegate David Albo’s remarks. Albo is quoted as saying, "We know that George Bush is just killing us….His popularity just brought the ticket down. There's no other way to explain it.”

First, George Bush did not kill the Virginia GOP in the election. If that were the case, the down-ticket races that Republicans won, including the Lieutenant Governor and, as seems likely, the Attorney General would now be in the hands of Democrats. Even Del. Albo won his race in predominantly liberal Fairfax County. President Bush’s last minute attempt to bolster the weak campaign of Jerry Kilgore was not enough to pull Kilgore out of trouble. But Bush was not the cause of Kilgore’s failure to capture the Governor’s seat.

Del. Albo, by claiming “there’s no other way to explain” Kilgore’s failure, is offering no solution that can help the Virginia GOP in the future. What Albo is doing is throwing up his hands in defeat while trying to lay the blame on President Bush. A more helpful approach would for Albo and other Republicans to honestly and objectively review Kilgore’s failed campaign and dispassionately identify mistakes, missteps, and miscommunications. Blaming an outsider, any outsider, will lead only to the same mistakes.

Despite the headline in the Washington Times, Bush did not sink the Virginia GOP. In fact, the GOP in Virginia is in the same condition today as it was the day before the election. Kilgore sank himself. The rest of the party, including Bill Bolling and Ed McDonnell are still safely afloat.

Although this was not an ideal election outcome for Virginia Republicans, it was not a disaster.  Two of the top three elected positions are in Republican hands, and the Republicans still hold the legislature.  That does not sound like a party sunk by President Bush.

Charles Bloomer is a resident of Virginia, a Contributing Editor for Enter Stage Right, and creator of Liberty Call US www.libertycall.us. He can be contacted at clbloomer@enterstageright.com. © 2005 Charles Bloomer

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