Lessons For 2014 From A Virginia Defeat

   < < Go Back
from The Wall Street Journal,

GOP candidates need to unite the party’s factions or they will continue to lose winnable races.

After leading in the Virginia governor’s race by double digits in recent polls, Democrat Terry McAuliffe defeated Republican Ken Cuccinelli by a mere 2.5 percentage points. This despite having outspent Mr. Cuccinelli by $34 million to $20 million.

The Republican did not lose because he ran a lousy general election campaign. His was a disciplined effort focused on jobs, Mr. McAuliffe’s checkered business career and, in the closing days, ObamaCare’s incompetent implementation and the law’s negative consequences for Americans.

Mr. Cuccinelli was an electoral victim of the ill-devised strategy some Republicans employed to shut down the federal government unless ObamaCare was defunded. Virginia has more than 300,000 federal employees and retirees, plus a large military presence, making it particularly sensitive to a shutdown.

Mr. Cuccinelli’s loss is also attributable to factors out of his control, and to his actions in the years leading up to the race.

In the state senate and as attorney general, he was well known for his conservative social views. His positions weren’t the problem. It was the way in which he has presented them for years—with polarizing language and an acerbic tone that even allies found off-putting.

While he played down social issues this election, he could not escape his past words on abortion, birth control and divorce laws, especially with Mr. McAuliffe lambasting him relentlessly with negative television ads whose tagline was: “He’s focused on his agenda, not us.”

Mr. Cuccinelli also made a mistake in engineering a last-minute change to have the GOP’s gubernatorial candidate chosen in a convention rather than a primary.

The convention fallout also left Mr. Cuccinelli vulnerable to a libertarian candidate, Robert Sarvis, who got on the ballot with funding from a wealthy Texas Democrat.

More From Rove.com (subscription required):