Republicans who lived through the post-Watergate
years and the gubernatorial elections of 1981, 1985
and 1989, election night 2005 hardly seemed like the
end of the world. There was no Democrat tsunami this
year, only that painful sense of what might have
of the very commentators who criticized
Governor-Elect Tim Kaine for waging a campaign
devoid of big ideas are now lauding him as a
brilliant politician But the outcome of the
Kaine-Kilgore matchup was less about Kaineís savvy
than Kilgoreís failures. If Gov. Mark R. Warner
and candidate Kaine had such strategic and tactical
skills, why werenít all other Democrats on the
ballot this November benefited as Kaine was?
candidates who lost this year were generally
victimized by their own missteps, not unmistakable
political shifts among Virginia voters.
Democrats would be wise not to draw too bold a
conclusion about the election results.
is an exception to that caution. Mark Warner
received a big boost simply because Kaine prevailed.
Pundits covering national politics wonít look
beyond the fact that a Democrat supported by Warner
was elected governor in a state that went for
President George W. Bush in 2004 by a wide margin.
Virginia Republicans should worry about is not how
well Warner will sell in any presidential campaign
he might launch next year, but how they can regain
political momentum in Virginia. They have a lot of
work to do on that score.
momentum was relatively strong early in Warnerís
term. The sound defeat of each of the two regional
ballot measures in 2002 played right into the hands
of the GOP, even though the opposition to each of
the tax hike proposals was broadly based.
and the Democrats werenít responsible for stalling
that Republican momentum. Several Republicans in the
General Assembly can take credit for that. In the
State Senate, a number of senior Republicans, led by
Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Chichester,
proposed a tax increase in 2004 that was several
times greater than that proposed by Warner, despite
the strong opposition of GOP leaders and the
partyís grassroots. That proposal effectively
destroyed the credibility of the GOP as a fiscally
conservative party, regardless of what other GOP
legislators chose to do at the 2004 legislative
public opinion surveys during the 2005 campaigns,
the GOPís loss of any brand identification as a
party appeared to be more damaging to GOP candidates
than other factors, including Warnerís popularity
and President Bushís sharp drop in public
approval. It certainly didnít help that one-time
Republican Russ Potts was running for governor as an
independent and using every opportunity he could
find to attack those Republicans who opposed raising
commentators have already picked over the election
results and campaign strategies in great detail.
When politicians and activists analyze the same
data, they tend to engage in finger-pointing. What
Republicans need to devote their energy to now is
not more recrimination, but forward-looking
proposals that can infuse the party with a common
vision, renewed energy and a sense of purpose.
Republican Party of Virginia canít maintain its
preeminence in Virginia politics as a house divided.
Something has to give. If it doesnít stand clearly
and forcefully for principles that Virginians can
embrace, it will surely decline.
is no time for the GOP to settle on a mushy,
lowest-common-denominator agenda. The party canít
continue to tolerate contradictory policy positions,
particularly on fiscal policy. Itís time to choose
one or the other.
November 28, 2005