You know a campaign is in trouble when before the votes are even taken a nearly frenzied burst of fingerpointing begins centering on why the campaign failed and was so lousy — before the vote is even taken. That’s what’s going on in the long-time bellwether state of Virginia which seems to be a reflection of the national scene: a not-great, flawed Democrat is seemingly politically on top due to the far-right Tea Part rhetoric that almost obliterated a seemingy cake-walk political benefit. Republicans are already engaged in massive fingerpointing about what went wrong:
National Republicans agree on this much about the 2013 campaign in Virginia: It
wasn’t supposed to go like this.
Well before the last votes are cast in the state’s off-year governor’s race, GOP leaders are already engaged in a spirited debate over why, exactly, a fight against a Democrat as flawed as Terry McAuliffe has turned into such a painful slog of a campaign. Even Republicans who haven’t yet counted out their nominee, state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, view the governor’s race as a profile in frustration for the GOP – an election that should have leaned toward the Republicans, but where Democrats have held a persistent lead in polling, money and tactical prowess.
If you read other articles about this, there are few that are assuming Cuccinelli will win. Most are analytical political obituaries:
The GOP’s internal discussion about the race mirrors much of the broader national tug of war within the conservative coalition, between officials and strategists who want the party to trim back some of its most confrontational tactics and hard-edged rhetoric, and activists bent on drawing the starkest possible lines of contrast with the Democratic party of President Barack Obama.
The clearest battle lines will emerge after Tuesday; but the Washington community has groused for months about Cuccinelli’s history of incendiary, ultra-ideological stances, while rank-and-file activists have watched with horror as well-tailored GOP donors have defected to McAuliffe. Everyone in the party – establishment and tea party alike – has fumed over the ongoing ethics controversies that have rocked outgoing Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration and undercut Cuccinelli’s anticipated advantage over McAuliffe on personal integrity.
A Cuccinelli defeat, in other words, would have a thousand fathers.
Especially if when the votes are counted it’s the mother of all defeats..
But this much is already clear: the GOP’s accumulated problems in Virginia have brought the party to the edge of a historic defeat in a nationally pivotal swing state, potentially producing a Republican shutout of all five statewide offices (governor, attorney general, lieutenant governor and two U.S. senators) for the first time since the Nixon administration.
This relects the national scene where if GOPers hadn’t been stampeded by talk radio hosts and Ted Cruz into going for a government shutdown and showing that they REALLY really would seriously consider tossing the United States into debt default if they couldn’t get by virtual political extortion what they had been unable to achieve at the ballot box or by coalitions in Congress the shockingly terrible Obamacare rollout would have dominated the news. The Republican confrontationfest stepped on the Obamacare story — Republicans are working overtime now to ensure it’s totally out there now — and has chased some voters away from the party, as polls increasingly show.
And this is likely to be the Democrats’ template: let the Tea Party and far right GOPers rage and indulge in over the top rhetoric or champion proposals that only Rush Limbaugh and conservative Internet websites would applaud.
Then let the voters decide which party is the scariest — because in a country where the center has historically triumphed, truly scary versus not as scary and marginally incompetent usually means truly scary or Twilight Zonish loses.
Grapic via shutterstock.com
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.