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Steele, McDonnell call Mollohan defeat a 'wake-up call' for Obama

At the Republican National Committee state chairmen's meeting at National Harbor, I asked RNC Chairman Michael Steele and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) for their read on yesterday's primary defeat of Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.). The 14-term incumbent was challenged over his support of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and his leisurely opposition to cap-and-trade climate legislation.

"It's a wake-up call," said Steele. "The American people are engaged in a way that they haven't been for a generation. And they're holding elected officials, incumbents, accountable. And they're holding those who want to become incumbents accountable."

Steele acknowledged that the challenges to long-term incumbents affects both parties, but he argued that Democrats had more to worry about.

"This isn't Tea Party versus Republicans," said Steele. "This isn't Tea Party versus anybody. This is average Americans taking hold of the political process and saying, 'We're going to pick the winners and losers. Not the establishment. We are.' What happened in West Virginia should be a wake-up call for the administration and the Democratic Party, that they have sowed a lot of bad seeds, and now they're going to bear that bad fruit."

McDonnell saw Mollohan's defeat as a possible harbinger for a GOP challenge against Rep. Rick Boucher (D), who represents coal country in southwestern Virginia.

"The intensity against cap-and-trade in the 9th District is so strong," said McDonnell. "I actually ran TV commercials in my campaign for governor against cap-and-trade because of its impact on the coal industry and on jobs. I think it's a significant challenge for Congressman Boucher to explain that vote. And we're going to have a strong candidate."

Interestingly, neither man mentioned the GOP candidate who will now face Democratic nominee Mike Oliviero, the man who beat Mollohan, in West Virginia -- the race was simply not on many radars until Tuesday night.

By David Weigel  |  May 12, 2010; 3:19 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Election  
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