Voters Answer The 10 Questions: 1. Virginia's GOP
Here are the voters' answers to the 10 questions I posed this week about this election--I'll be posting these one at a time for easy, quicker viewing:
1. Is the hard-core appeal to social conservatives no longer a path to victory for Virginia's Republican party?
Whether they were merely carried along by the Obama wave or lost because voters thought they were too wedded to George Bush's ideas and actions, Virginia Republicans took a beating last night. Former Gov. Jim Gilmore, tossed to the curb by John McCain and Sarah Palin, who made visit after visit to Virginia and almost never uttered the name of their party's top statewide candidate, was trounced by Mark Warner in his bid to succeed John Warner in the U.S. Senate. Gilmore ran an atrociously invisible campaign, and he made zero effort to reach out beyond the hard core Republican base. As a result, he won a stunningly low 34 percent of the vote statewide.
Even more gloomy for the Republican future in the commonwealth, Gilmore lost by jawdropping margins not only inside the Beltway, but in the once-securely Republican outer suburbs as well.
Warner beat Gilmore 64-36 in Prince William County and 57-42 in Loudoun County. (Warner's margin in Fairfax County, by comparison, was 67-32.)
If anything could be more disturbing to Republicans than the extension of the Democratic stronghold on northern Virginia, it's the loss of two and quite likely three congressional seats. Not only did Fairfax board chairman Gerry Connolly beat Republican Keith Fimian for Rep. Tom Davis's seat in Fairfax (Fimian actually fared better than many Democrats had expected), but two supposedly safe GOP seats in "real Virginia" look like they'll be switching hands too. Rep. Thelma Drake lost to Democrat Glenn Nye, 52-48, in the Virginia Beach-Norfolk area. And in the 5th District, which extends from Charlottesville down through rural south central Virginia, a 34-year-old national security consultant named Tom Perriello appears to have just barely edged out six-term Rep. Virgil Goode, by 50.1 to 49.9 percent, a margin that will force a recount. Goode ran on his protection of gun rights and his opposition to all federal taxes, calling for the abolition of the IRS. He disparaged his challenger as a "New York slick" and "New York lawyer." Perriello grew up in Albemarle County, Virginia.
Social conservatives in the party argue that it's the moderates who blurred the distinctions that would attract voters to the GOP. They say Virginia Republicans need to hew closer to their message of fiscal and social conservatism, and they believe that state attorney general Bob McDonnell will win the governor's race in 2009 by preaching low taxes and Virginia values. But many northern Virginia Republicans say the party's only chance to turn the tide is to move to the center, embracing voters' concern that the state has not spent enough to help the transportation infrastructure keep pace with growth and reaching out to ethnic minorities, who are poised to form a majority of the population in Prince William, for example.
The Republican party in Virginia has very little time to make decisions about its message and path forward. The campaigns for governor and other statewide posts, as well as the General Assembly, begin in earnest in just a couple of months.
By Marc Fisher |
November 5, 2008; 10:59 AM ET
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