Well, Israel is still awesome. I should be here for another week. New Years in Jerusalem is the next big thing on my schedule, followed by a tour of the Knessett. Hopefully I will get up to Galilee, as well. Anyways, since 2005 is coming to a close, I figured that I might do one of those cheesey "best of/worst of" lists, because they are fun. First of all, I am glad to see this year go by. It hasn't been that great for me, so I can't wait for a new start in '06. Tsunamis, scadals, low poll numbers, Tom DeLay, Kilogre'ws loss, Jack Abramoff, Katrina, it has ben kind of a depressing year. Especially for us Republicans. Normally I would be worried, but as long as the bumbling, stumpling Democrats are around, we should have no problems. Remember, a great man I know once said always leave it to the Deomcrats to find a way to self-destruct in the face victory. Anyways, on with the awards: good news first.
1. Gov. Mark Warner: 2005 has been a great year for the Guv. He effectivley handled the Republican majority in the General Assembly, came out strong for his heir apparent and had as much to do with Kaine's election than anyone else, leaving his state in friendly hands. This has also been the year of Warner for President. He has really made a splash on the national scene, earning great press, and becoming an effective spokesman for the centrist Democrats. Should be interesting to see how he handles 2006 and how he plans on taking on Hillary Clinton.
2. Goveror-Elect Tim Kaine: In a governor's race that started the day both he and Attorney General Jerry Kilgore were sworn in four years earlier, Kaine won a decisive victory in a race predicted to be much closer. A smart, deliberate, and patient campaign, Kaine came all the way back from a double-digit deficet to win convincingly. Kaine has effectivley won a second term for Mark Warner, but usually a second term does not go as well as a first. It should be interesting to see if Kaine can carry the same clout and swagger that Warner did, or if GA Republicans will have enough of being bossed around and actually take him on. Should be interesting.
3. Rep. Tom Davis: With Kilgore's defeat, and his disasterous showing in voter-rich Northern Virginia, Davis all of a sudden has become the man to be seen in Virginia politics. Espousing an interesting blend of moderate partisanship, Davis is arguing that NoVa is the axis for victory in Virginia, and by implication, he is the man to get it done. Its hard to argue. Not to mention he has made a national name by taking on Baseball, sterioids, and Hurricane releif. It should be very interesting to see where Davis finds his place in the state party, and it the need to win will outweigh some of the conservatives reservations about the congressmen.
4. Bill Bolling: I know there will be some controversey here. Others have argued that Bolling's slim margin of victory over an ultra-liberal Leslie Byrne is a show of weakness. I can grant that, however Democrats made a strong showing state-wide, and it should not then be suprising that both Byrne and Creigh Deeds came MUCH closer to winning that previously thought. Bolling has a chance to become the conservative standard bearer in the state, and his leadership in the state senate will be much needed given the dominance of the Squishy Republicans, led by John Chichester. Bolling has a chance to become a major player in Virginia politics, he needs to show some metal and lead a conservative agenda out of the senate.
5. George Allen: Though he took one on the chin in the governor's race (Kilgore was his boy), Allen has taken tremendous strides nationally in his quest for the presidency. Allen has gotten good press, and GOP poll numbers have him doing very well despite lacking the full national exposure of a Giuliani or McCain. Barring anything catastrophic, Senator Allen seems poised to make a very strong run at the presidency in three years.
1. NOVA Republicans: Without out a doubt. I mean, we just got SCORCHED up here. 30%, that is how much Kaine beatdown Kilgore. Kaine even won Loudon Co., something that I don't think any Democrat has done in years. Republicans in the region are searching for an identity, somewhere between Tom Davis and Ken Cuccinelli. It has become obvious that emphasis on social and moral issues which play so well elsewhere in the state for Republicans simply does not work up here. To win elections in the next few years, Republicans have to figure out a stronger NOVA strategy in order to actually win something statewide.
2. Jerry Kilgore: Don't get me wrong, I was and still am a proud supporter of Kilgore. I know he would have made an incredible governor. But he ran a lousy campaign, assuming all Bush voters in '04 would vote for him in '05. Strong poll numbers in August and September caused the campaign to play prevent defense, allwoing Team Kaine to eat yards before it was too late in November. Never connecting in NOVA, he came off as mean-spirited with his death penalty ads. But Kilgore still has much to give to this state and this party, and hopefully he can challenge Rick Boucher for Congress. He might not win, but he could.
3. Creigh Deeds: Despite coming agonizingly close to becoming AG, Deeds loss hurts Democrats. Nobody really expected Byrne to win, but Deeds gave Democrats a real chance to expand their depleted bench. With Warner running for president, and Kaine the only elected state-wide Dem, Democrats are going to have a hard time looking for candidates in the future. Not that Deeds is without a future, but it will be awfully hard for him to come back now that Republicans have Davis, Gov. Gilmore, Bolling, Eric Cantor, and McDonnell all potential statewide candidates for the future.
4. Chap Peterson: I love this guy, he really impressed me by writing me back. But still, with more money, more charisma, and politics very similar to Warner and Kaine, Peterson got swamped in the primaries by the liberal Byrne. Given the slim margin of Byrne's defeat, one can't help but ponder how much better Peterson would have done last November.
5. Anti-Tax Politics: The stinging defeats of Dick Black, Chris Craddock, and Michael Golden hurt the anti-tax political interest groups up here in Northern Virginia. Proving that NoVa is home of the Squish, all three were hurt by their preceived arch-conservative views. It was a victory for the status quo. Furthermore, the anti-tax crusaders like Phil Rodokanakis where so focused, they attacked Republicans as much as Democrats, especially hurting the Kilgore campaign. I understand they are non-partisan, but really, they aren't. For Rodo and other anti-taxers to go after Kilgore ripped open a costly schism in the party that Kaine exploited to victory.
So there it is. A bit long, I know, but I am a history student and we don't know how to write pithy prose :-). Hope you enjoy it, and here's hoping 2006 is a stronger year for all of us, our party, our president, and our country.