Print Columns   |   Web Chats   |   Blog Archives   |  

The GOP and Northern Virginia--Still Separate Planets

So the Virginia Republican Party's idea of appealing to northern Virginia voters is to feature Fairfax Sen. Ken Cuccinelli as its candidate for attorney general in 2009, while Virginia Beach's Bob McDonnell heads up the ticket as the gubernatorial nominee and Bill Bolling of suburban Richmond seeks to stay on as lieutenant governor.

For a party that is steadily and surely losing votes in the Washington suburbs to spurn the idea of geographic diversity and choose as its sole representative of the region one of the most conservative and polarizing figures in the state's legislature sends a clear and troubling message about the much-discussed NoVa/RoVa divide: The Republicans are staking their future on winning strong enough support in the rest of Virginia that the ever-bluer northern tier of the state won't matter to their electoral fortunes.

Cuccinelli's announcement yesterday that he will seek the top legal job in the state appears to pave the way toward a unified Republican front for next year's elections--a ticket that may well win the party's nominations without much in the way of convention challenges. Almost immediately after last week's announcement of the cozy arrangement between McDonnell and Bolling to share the top spots, Prince William County chairman Corey Stewart, who had been preparing to run for lieutenant governor, yielded and bowed out. Cuccinelli may yet face significant challenges for the nomination, but at this point, close-in northern Virginia's only Republican state senator is the leading figure in the race.

This early display of likely GOP unity contrasts sharply with the emerging Democratic contest for the nomination to succeed Gov. Tim Kaine. Alexandria Delegate Brian Moran and state Sen. Creigh Deeds, who represents a swath of central Virginia from Charlottesville to the western border, will likely face off in a primary next year, and both are traveling the state, seeking to sell themselves as moderates in the Mark Warner mold. (The Dems could end up with a geographic imbalance of their own, what with Moran running for the top spot, Fairfax Sen. Chap Petersen being touted as a possible lieutenant governor candidate, and Fairfax Del. Steve Shannon talking about moving up to attorney general.)

But however the presidential race goes in Virginia, the trends of the past few years demonstrate that Republicans have lost their touch in the Washington area, consistently failing to sell voters on the idea that a tough anti-tax stance is solving the state's transportation, education and social service problems. Cuccinelli won reelection in Fairfax last year only because he had a remarkably weak Democratic opponent who failed to capitalize on widespread discomfort with Cuccinelli's principled, activist positions well to the right of his district on social issues.

Republican bloggers are hailing the McDonnell-Bolling-Cuccinelli ticket as a dream team that instantly demonstrates more stature and experience than anything the Democrats are likely to put together. But at least one northern Virginia Republican blog notes that "it's hard to imagine a more conservative ticket" than McDonnell-Bolling-Cuccinelli and wonders whether a Democratic ticket of Deeds and Fairfax Sen. Chap Petersen might be a formidable opponent to that GOP lineup.

The departure of Rep. Tom Davis from the Republican scene in northern Virginia and the strong challenge that Rep. Frank Wolf is facing this year from challenger Judy Feder illustrate the party's increasing sense that the Washington suburbs are a lost cause for the GOP. But the demographics of Virginia lend little credence to the notion that Republicans can win statewide by giving up on the Washington area. This is where the economic and population growth in the state is centered. A political party that chooses to move away from the center--either ideologically or geographically--is one that is choosing partisan purity over electoral viability.

By Marc Fisher |  April 1, 2008; 7:59 AM ET
Previous: 10 Best Things About Nats Park (And Five Worst) | Next: From Catholic Schools to Charters: What's Left?

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



So Cuccinelli is "out of touch" with Northern Virginia even though he WON re-election? Better to run one of the Republicans who lost their Northern Virginia race, because that proves their more "in touch" with voter in this area -- or with Marc Fisher, in any event.

Sheesh. Marc, you've been using this "Republicans are too conservative for Northern Virginia" boilerplate for years. I guess Jerry Kilgore, from Southwest Virginia, was your kind of Republican, eh? No, of course not. The only NoVa Republicans that get favorable spin from you are people like Russ Potts, who became an "independent," or John Chichester, who had the great political fortitude to lead the Senate GOP in approving a big tax increase.

The McDonnell-Bolling-Cucinelli ticket looks great to me, but of course, I'm a Northern Virginia conservative. I'm SO out of touch.

Posted by: Discman | April 1, 2008 1:09 PM

Discman, Cuccinelli won his election by about 100 votes against probably the most lackluster candidate imaginable. Had the Dems fielded even a slightly better candidate, he would have lost by a landslide. Since it is likely that the Dems will find an AG candidate with credentials and the ability to speak coherently, I see no chance for Cuccinelli to win. The best Repubs can hope for is that he doesn't drag down the rest of the ticket. He is probably the ideal Repub candidate from the Dem standpoint--people will run over each other running to the Dem side. Even conservatives don't like him because of unethical behavior he displayed in his career. The Repubs would stand a better chance with just about anyone else in VA.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 1, 2008 1:27 PM

We're hoping to provoke enough of the
"blue staters" to leave so we can get back to being VA again. Or at least provoke the Dems into running someone like Leslie Byrne to appeal to the moderate-center voters.

Posted by: Stick | April 1, 2008 3:21 PM

Discman and Stick: Welcome to 2008. Keep thinking guys like Cooch are going to reverse the Virginia GOP's downward spiraling fortunes.

Posted by: Spectator2 | April 1, 2008 3:49 PM

Northern Virginia the the Virginia GOP are indeed from two different planets.

Northern Virginia is from Earth.

The Virginia GOP is from Uranus.

Posted by: Sasquatch | April 1, 2008 5:09 PM

Feder is running a strong campaign? Well,s he's getting lots of money from outside the district and the state. And Wolf is matching her, dollar-for-dollar. In a Dem-friendly year he beat her by 16 points. He's been doing campaign appearances and mailings on a regular basis. I don't see how she makes that margin up.

Posted by: Fried Ravioli | April 2, 2008 10:23 AM

The problems that the Republicans have in Northern Virginia are caused by their failure to cut government, including a wasteful, post-Cold War Pentagon. The Democrats will always appeal more to people who believe in big governmment. Thus, Northern Virginia, with its many government workers, government contractors and industries which rely on government contracts, will always trend Democratic as government grows. Virginia Republicans from all regions can only blame the George W. Bush-led Republican Party for its woes. It is hard to fathom how the Republicans can't figure this out.

Posted by: D Leaberry | April 2, 2008 1:48 PM

Marc,

The real problem is that the Virginia GOP has not made the attempt to offer any candidates who appealed to the changing demographics of the region or who voters could identify with. Unfortunately, when those candidates with crossover appeal come along, like Amit Singh from Arlington, they are often met with resistance by some members of the GOP.

Posted by: Sunil | April 2, 2008 3:11 PM

Very good commentary by DLeaberry regarding the federal sector employment in NoVA. In an economy driven by government growth, the democrats will always be appealing. As to the rest of the state -- When the electorate sees no difference between tax -and-spend Democrats and borrow-and-spend Republicans, it's no no wonder that the GOP loses ground.

Out here in the moderate 10th district, Judy Feder hasn't been much competition, except in fundraising. If she couldn't win in the 6th year of W's presidency, there is NO way she can win in a presidential election as heated as this one is going to be. Wolf's a lot more pragmatic and moderate than most of the state GOP and is still appealing to a moderate suburban electorate. Loudoun county is a little different than the rest of NoVA, especially in the 10th district. We rebelled against the county supervisors because they were in bed with the developers, not because of fundamental philosophical differences with the GOP.

Posted by: Leesburger | April 2, 2008 3:40 PM

I was interested in Leesburger's point about how Republicans lose when they jump in bed with developers in the exurbs. witness Loudon County. That is what happened in Queen Anne's County, MD(the first county you get to across the Bay Bridge). Queen Anne's is a conservative, Republican County(voted Ehrlich with 75 % in 2002) that voted in four Democrats to fill seats on the five man country commissioner board because the Republicans were lapdogs of the developer lobby. Republican voters move to the exurbs to get away from the rat race and don't want the suburban rat race to follow them. But Republican politicians in Loudon County and Queen Anne's County can't figure that out.

Posted by: D Leaberry | April 2, 2008 5:12 PM

Feder is on another planet if she believes she can come closer to beating Wolf this year. No very far left winger going to stand a chance in this district. Turner is a much more viable candidate because he does not appear ideologically off the deep end. I don't know why Feder is wasting the dems valuable time.

Posted by: independentvoter | April 3, 2008 9:01 PM

Retired Air Force Colonel Mike Turner will be a formidable foe for Frank Wolf in the general election for the VA-10 Congressional seat.

Turner's 35-year experience in the military and non-profit organizations and his solid proactive positions on the War in Iraq, the housing crisis, the economy, and transpiration are resonating with tens of thousands of 10th district voters (including Democrats, Independents and Republicans).

Turner has taken a firm stand on healthcare (supporting HR676) while Wolf and Feder have not taken positions.

Turner has taken a firm stand on the housing crisis while Wolf has proposed a study group (SAFE Commission) that will issue a report in 15 MONTHS -- allowing thousands of home foreclosures to occur unabated.

Voters can read about Turner and see him on video at www.MikeTurnerforCongress.com.

Posted by: Blue Ridge Dem | April 6, 2008 2:31 PM

Retired Air Force Colonel Mike Turner will be a formidable foe for Frank Wolf in the general election for the VA-10 Congressional seat.

Turner's 35-year experience in the military and non-profit organizations and his solid proactive positions on the War in Iraq, the housing crisis, the economy, and transportation are resonating with tens of thousands of 10th district voters (including Democrats, Independents and Republicans).

Turner has taken a firm stand on healthcare (supporting HR676) while Wolf and Feder have not taken positions.

Turner has taken a firm stand on the housing crisis while Wolf has proposed a study group (SAFE Commission) that will issue a report in 15 MONTHS -- allowing thousands of home foreclosures to occur unabated.

Voters can read about Turner and see him on video at www.MikeTurnerforCongress.com.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2008 2:32 PM

I love campaign spam!!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 8, 2008 5:15 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2010 The Washington Post Company