Bob McDonnell, Virginia’s incoming Republican governor, is the Wall Street Journal editorial page’s weekend interview. Here are some notable snippets:
“In the worst economy in 80 years,” says Mr. McDonnell, “it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what we ought to be talking about.” He adds: “I do think that talking about the excesses of the federal government is something you are going to hear Republican and Democratic candidates for statewide office talk about for a while because I think you’re going to see a resurgence of discussions of federalism, about the 10th Amendment, about limits on federal power, and federal spending.”
Given his emphasis on economic issues, I ask Mr. McDonnell whether he was able to win because he downplayed his social conservatism. He brushes off the question. “I am 100% prolife . . . We were unequivocal about our position on marriage,” he says.
“I have a record,” he says, that includes 14 years in the House of Delegates and three years as the state’s attorney general that made it possible for him to spend the bulk of his time talking about fiscal issues. When social issues did come up during the campaign, he was able to state his position and then say “OK, now let’s talk about the economy.”
McDonnell’s comments echo the advice Karl Rove gave the GOP in the Journal earlier this week:
A second Contract with America won’t suffice. The GOP really won in 1994 by arming candidates with a basket of issues to pick from. Next year, candidates must be fluent in kitchen-table issues from jobs to health care to deficits to spending.
Ambitious Republicans should resolve to run next year. There will be a wave of voter support for GOP positions, but authenticity, passion and conviction matter. Voters can smell them, so bone up on the issues and say what you believe, not what someone tells you to say.
McDonnell’s message is clear: Jobs, jobs, and more jobs, with the verve of another famous Virginian: “Give me liberty, or give me death!” It’s a platform that will fire up conservatives and attract independents. Add Rove’s advice to be for something and “fluent in kitchen-table issues” and you may just have a recipe for a landslide. Thing is, the GOP will need to not only fight to repeal and reject Obama’s agenda, but to articulate a message that refocuses on our core principles and ties them to modern issues. As Rove says, it’s time to “bone up,” capture that tea-party spirit, and reach out to start building a new coalition.