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Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

It’s the Morning After. Firing Squad, Assume Circular Formation!



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Woke up this morning with a headache and a blue moon in my eyes. From the Morning Jolt:

Ken Cuccinelli, Finishing Better Than Anyone Expected . . . for Whatever That’s Worth.

Boy, it’s too bad elections don’t have point spreads, huh?

Late last night, Kristina Ribali of FreedomWorks asked, “Cuccinelli did better than Romney, right?”

It depends upon your measuring stick. Cuccinelli finished closer than Romney, but won a smaller share of the vote. Obama won, 51.1 percent to 47.28 percent. At this hour, McAuliffe won, 48 percent to 45.5 percent.

At some point, accounting for all the variables gets maddening. Cuccinelli was drastically outspent . . . but he had a worse opponent. It’s an off-year election, with lower turnout that traditionally is an advantage for Republicans . . . but he had to run away from the incumbent because of Governor Bob McDonnell’s gift scandal.

Then again, maybe he shouldn’t have, judging from CNN’s exit poll: “Virginia voters actually approve of McDonnell’s job performance by 12 points (53%-41%).”

Cuccinelli indisputably was hurt by the government shutdown . . . but then he indisputably was helped by running against Obamacare in the closing days.

As Tuesday night wore on, the Republican firing squad assumed its traditional circular formation. Here’s a scorecard of the scapegoats:

It was the RNC’s fault! On Twitter, a lot of folks were calling for Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus’s blood, noting that the RNC spent $3 million helping Cuccinelli this year after spending $9 million to help Bob McDonnell in 2009. The RNC’s had a better year than its Democratic counterpart, raising about $60.9 million this year, compared to $47 million for the DNC (and the DNC still has $17 million in unpaid debt from last year).

Here’s the short version of the RNC’s summary of what they did to help Cuccinelli:

In Virginia, the RNC has nearly 50 offices, significantly more than we had in the state during the 2012 presidential cycle and a comparable number of staff…

In Virginia, we already have gathered more than twice the amount of voter data.

We have also served as a resource to the campaigns up and down the ballot. For example, we have conducted both mainstream and ethnic media training efforts with Cuccinelli, Obenshain, Dels. Rust, Comstock, and Hugo as well as Freddy Burgos, who is a challenger in the 41st District.

The RNC has a total of seven paid staffers dedicated to engaging minority communities and have attended numerous events on behalf of the Republican Party. The RNC has also done significant paid print, radio, and TV advertising in ethnic media outlets on behalf of candidates.

Was that enough?

Keep in mind, this race has looked pretty tough for Cuccinelli since at least midsummer. How much money do Republicans want the RNC throwing in to help a candidate trailing by 7 or 8 or 9 points?

I’ll tell you this: if Cuccinelli had been within two or three points consistently this fall, the RNC would have spent a heck of a lot more money than it did. The problem is that from about mid-summer until, oh, one hour after the polls closed, Ken Cuccinelli looked like a dead man walking in this race. Bad polls, quiet debate performances, brutal coverage, an inability to capitalize on tough coverage of McAuliffe’s scandals . . . 

It’s Cuccinelli’s fault! Earlier this week, I said you can’t get outspent by $15 million and win a statewide race. Apparently I should have added an asterisk and said you can keep it close. Cuccinelli got a lot of help from right-leaning groups; a fair question is whether he raised enough himself to keep himself in the ballpark with McAuliffe: the Republican Governors Association spent $8 million to help Cuccinelli. The NRA Political Victory Fund kicked in $600,000. Focus on the Family, $238,000.

As an attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli rarely ducked a fight and in fact picked fights that some Republicans might have avoided. The problem was that he didn’t want to run for reelection as that guy. Of course, Terry McAuliffe’s ad team was determined to turn Cuccinelli into a horrific funhouse mirror-version of that guy.

From Ben Domenech, a.k.a., that guy who writes that other newsletter:

Cuccinelli had the baggage of his past fights which the left used very well. This is true of Cuccinelli’s fights on marriage, abortion, climate, but particularly true of the issue of his defense of a sodomy statute on the books in Virginia. I doubt Cuccinelli ever realized how big of a liability this would be, but again, he’d have been better off defending himself vocally than shying away from it. Gay Republicans openly compared Cuccinelli to David Duke, and the indication that Cuccinelli wants to go around rounding up people for engaging in consensual sex was ubiquitous to any conversation about him on social media. Of course, in my county, there are nine convicted child abusers and sex offenders who were convicted under the statute, and I’d like to know which ones of them deserve to go off the books . . . but that defense was never offered.

It was the Libertarians’ fault! Let’s get one thing straight: A big chunk of Robert Sarvis’s voters aren’t really libertarians, or they don’t fit a definition you and I would offer for that philosophy. As Biased Girl and I have observed, some sub-segment of standard-issue liberals are self-identifying as libertarians, sort of a political hipsterism. They get to keep all of their usual liberal views on social issues, support smaller government in theory but never in practice, complain about taxes, and act like they’re so much more sophisticated than everyone else.

Jonah Goldberg’s self-proclaimed “socially liberal, fiscally conservative” friend “Bob” fits this description.

Sarvis’ voters are young – he got 15 percent of voters between 18 and 29. He took 15 percent of those who self-identified as “independents,” 8 percent of those who identified as moderate or liberal Republicans, and 4 percent of those who self-identify as liberal Democrats. Among those who said they “somewhat oppose” Obamacare, he took 17 percent; among those who said they “somewhat support” Obamacare, he took 10 percent.

One glitch in the theory from the exit polling:

Libertarian Robert Sarvis, may have made it closer for McAuliffe than it would have been otherwise. Had he not been on the ballot, a third of his voters said they’d have supported McAuliffe – slightly more than twice as many as said they’d have gone for Cuccinelli.

It’s the Tea Party’s fault! Under this narrative, Chris Christie won because he’s a moderate, Cuccinelli lost because he’s a scary Tea Partier, and New York is now run by the Sandinistas because the country is rejecting conservatism in all its forms.

There’s a molecule of truth to those arguments; perhaps more significant to Tea Partiers is the result in that special U.S. House election in Alabama:

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Bradley Byrne, a staid former state senator, led Dean Young, a conservative real estate developer who likened himself to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent.

But then you look down ticket, and you see the candidate on the Right beating the candidate on the Left over and over again. You see it in the Virginia House of Delegates elections . . . where Republicans won 67 out of 100 seats.

You see it in Colorado’s referenda on tax hikes for education . . . 

Voters emphatically rejected a $950 million tax increase and the school funding revamp that came with it, handing Amendment 66 a resounding defeat Tuesday night.

. . . and you see it in New York outside of the city

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino gave his victory speech a few minutes before 11 p.m. Tuesday night, according to the Journal News. At midnight, the incumbent had 55 percent of the vote with more than half of precincts reporting. Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano also declared victory, claiming 60 percent of the vote, Newsday reported.

Astorino has been floated as a possible challenger for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and although he’ll face a significant fundraising challenge and the governor’s relatively high popularity, his win in the affluent suburb where Democrats have a 2-to-1 enrollment advantage shows he has cross-party appeal.

And we’ll be playing woulda-coulda-shoulda for a few weeks. High among them: Would Cuccinelli have reversed these results with another couple of weeks of brutal coverage of Obamacare’s rollout?


Tags: Terry McAuliffe , Ken Cuccinelli , RNC , Chris Christie , Libertarians , Tea Party


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