As I’ve discussed in the past there is a narrative conservatives like to tell themselves about the election. It says that America is a conservative country and when the GOP runs real conservatives they win, and this is the way it has always been and will always be.
This narrative has been very powerful in keeping the Republican party very conservative even after disappointing losses in 2008 and 2012. If anything the narrative gave them an opportunity to bypass any introspection and just say “McCain and Romney were squishes and squishes always lose. Nuff said.”
Surprisingly, the National Review has an article saying that could be refuted by what happens in Virginia this November. Here’s what they say:
So if you’re one of those folks who believes that Mitt Romney was a RINO squish, and that Republicans always lose when they nominate RINO squishes, then you really, really, really need Ken Cuccinelli to win this year.
If Ken Cuccinelli – Mr. Conservative Record – loses against a flawed competitor like Terry McAuliffe, in a purple state like Virginia… and simultaneously, Governor Hug-Obama-After-a-Hurricane-and-Move-Left wins in a landslide up in New Jersey… the message to the rest of the Republican Party will be pretty clear. What you fervently believe – conservatives win, moderate squishes lose – will be refuted in the eyes of many Republicans.
Proud conservatives like to believe that their like-minded grassroots voters are, collectively, like a sleeping giant; they merely need to be awakened by the right candidate to transform into an unparalleled, unstoppable electoral force. Perhaps Cuccinelli and the African-American Christian minister running as the Republicans’ candidate for lieutenant governor, E.W. Jackson, will indeed be swept into office by that sleeping giant. Right now, most of Virginia’s big-time politics watchers think Jackson is a joke and an albatross to Cuccinelli.
If the conservative grassroots are indeed a sleeping giant, so far they’re hitting the “snooze” button on this race. At least through mid-summer, Cuccinelli’s fundraising is pretty “meh,” and he’s going up against an opponent who will have roughly dollars….What, national conservatives, the stakes aren’t high enough?
This analysis is spot on. First, no one can say if Cuccinelli loses it is because he’s a squish. They’re also right to say McAuliffe is a terrible candidate with more baggage than a terminal at Reagan airport. So, if Cuccinelli can’t rally this supposed natural majority to win and retake a state the GOP has lost in consecutive Presidential and U.S. Senate races there are a number of questions that conservatives will have to answer.
First, would a more moderate candidate have done better? What in particular about Cuccinelli’s solid social and economic conservatism turned people in Virginia off? Third, if this isn’t in Virginia anymore does that mean it won’t work in states like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida in 2016? Lastly, if you put it all together how can the GOP not go more moderate after losing a race they clearly should’ve won?
Who knows maybe this could be the start of a much bigger conversation the GOP needs to have. Do I think that will happen? No.