If Bob McDonnell wins the governor’s race in Virginia tomorrow, as seems likely, he’ll be the first Republican to succeed a Democrat in the office in 16 years. The last one was George Allen. When I profiled Allen in 2000, here’s how I characterized that moment:
Republicans around the country stood up and cheered for George Allen when he was elected governor of Virginia in 1993. For the GOP, this wasn’t just another race: It was a huge morale boost twelve months after losing the White House. Virginia is one of the few states that elects officials in odd-numbered years, which means that every other November it receives rapt attention from the political classes anxious for something to talk about. Allen’s victory snapped a streak of three straight gubernatorial losses for Virginia Republicans, and gave the national GOP reason for hope at a time when Democrats seemed ascendant.
Allen did not go on to enjoy the future that many had predicted for him, of course. The headline of my article in 2000 was “Conservative of the Future?” Thank goodness for the question mark. (For a funny story about this article, go here.)
Say what you will about Allen. If McDonnell prevails tomorrow, in the wake of several high-profile Democratic wins in Virginia, his victory will serve as a pick-me-up to the GOP.