This comment from Virginia National Committeemen Morton Blackwell at the just concluded Advance has me concerned:
"George Allen made mistakes, but they were blown out of proportion by the leftist media," said Morton Blackwell, one of Virginia's two members of the Republican National Committee. "In all the years George Allen was in office, he had a reputation as one of the nicest people and best campaigners in politics. The media completely undermined that perception."
It might be true. In fact, The Washington Post certainly is guilty of this, and I agree with Jim Hoeft when it says that "maccaca" cost George Allen 20 points. But part of the reason that the Post and other papers continually reportered was that Allen and campaign manager Dick Wadhams purposefully tried to use the Post as a political foil. It was a two-way war, and our guys are bitter because we lost. The fact is, Allen's campaign should have understood how much sway the Post holds over Northern Virginia voters (its OUR paper, so to speak), and antagonizing it was not only stupid, but it cost him. Perhaps Republicans need to at least attempt to cultivate the media, especially in Northern Virginia. Peppering speeches with "the liberal Washington Post" only antagonizes them further. I'm not saying let them have a pass, but Allen's attitude towards the Post cost him dearly--in that they kept reporting on it far longer than they should have.
I like what I hear from Chairman Gillespie:
Gillespie pledged to be a bridge between the conservative and moderate wings of the party, which have been locked in debate over whether tax increases are needed to improve transportation in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. He said the GOP must become a "welcoming party" to the legions of new residents pouring into Northern Virginia and find ways to address their daily concerns.
"We are all one state," he said. "Buying into this Northern Virginia versus the rest of Virginia notion is a recipe for electing Democrats to office."
An exact formula for improving the GOP's performance in Northern Virginia remained elusive, however. Gillespie, during a brief interview before his election Saturday, declined to discuss specifics.
Here are some specifics I can reccomend:
1. Be positive! Negative attacks on things like the death penalty and fiction novels infuriated the NoVa elctorate.
2. Emphasis fiscal conservatism, don't talk about social issues. Quite frankly, more people in NoVa are pro-abortion and anti-death penalty in NoVa. Look at Jim Webb. When in Fairfax, Arlington, etc-all he talked about was Iraq and federal defecits, even though he claims to be strongly pro-gun. Republicans like Tom Davis win up here. Davis's stump speeches are littered with emphasis on tax cuts and fiscal restraint.
3. Go for the women. By being positive and emphasising education and fiscal conservatism, the GOP can help win back more of the woman vote that we are losing in NOVA.
Republicans need to learn how to wage flexable campaigns statewide. Its something Warner, Kaine, and Webb all did-emphasizing certain issues in certain areas of the state. Also, we need to avoid thinking like this:
"Our message is strong and don't think there's any sign of a significant shift in politics in the state," he said. "We just need to get back to the basics of grass-roots organization."
Blackwell is half-right. We DO need to get back to the grass-roots, but the state HAS changed. In ten years, NOVA has shifted to the left. In the largest block of voters in the state, that fact cannot be ignored. Now I think its partly artificial becasue I really believe anger over Iraq has effected voters up here than anywhere else. NoVA voters are also more nationalized, and that does bleed into state elections. The area has exploded, and it needs to be understood.
I do, however, DEEPLY agree with Ed Gillespie that this needs to be ONE Virginia. But take note from the Democrats. Liberal Arlington has unified with more conservative D's like Creigh Deeds, and it has shown that the entire party is incredibly unified. Gillespie seems to be on the same line of thinking with Tom Davis, who urged more women and more minorities to join the party. That is what we need.
The immediate problems in the '07 elections are best explained by Davis:
"Voters are looking at the legislature and the various factions fighting, and they wonder if we are capable of governing."
This Genearl Assembly is CRUCIAL to the success of the party. The Senate and the House HAVE to come together on something, and we cannot raise taxes. The Albo-Rust plan sounds like the best so far, in that it raises revenue without raising taxes. But as long as the HoD and Senate crash into each other, Democrats will win.
One things Republicans need to remember statewide is that NoVa is NOT the dominate part of the state, yet. That is one lesson from Allen's lose. Webb won because Allen ran behind many of the congressional candidates in those districts. The Democratic equation for winning is dependent on winning more downstate votes than usual. If GOP statewide candidates can win 45& in NOVA (Fairfax, Arlington, Prince William, Loudoun), we will win statewide elections. So we can't run elections geared to one part or another, but we need a total platform that appeals to everyone.
Sounds like it was a good time. I'll hopefully make it to one of these Advances one of these days.