2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010
On what is likely to be the best election day for the GOP in five years, Politico’s Charles Mahtesian and Alex Isenstadt are not allowing Republicans even one day to enjoy their resurrection from the ash heap of history to which President Obama’s win last year had consigned them.
No, all is doom and gloom for the GOP according to these two because some conservative activists are supporting primary challengers to candidates MSM perceives as more electable in 2010. Exhibit number one is the race for Florida’s open Senate seat, where a popular center-right governor Charlie Crist is competing with a popular mainstream conservative Marco Rubio for the GOP nomination.
Other Republicans in danger of drawing party-splitting primary challenges from the right, according to Politico, are Senator Robert Bennett of Utah, and Congressman Mark Kirk of Illinois. Bennett’s lifetime American Conservative Union rating is 83. Kirk’s is 55. There is simply no comparison between either of them and Dede Scozzafava, or between New York’s 23rd and any other race that will unfold in the next year. I had Congressman Kirk on the program last week and received a couple of angry e-mails from Illinois conservatives who have detailed problems with Kirk on things like cap-and-tax –as do I– but the vast majority of Republican primary voters will be following Buckley’s rule in Illinois and across the country: Vote for the most conservative candidate who can get elected. This wonderfully simple rule works again and again to benefit both conservatism and the GOP.
The primary contests noted by Politico and many others will be waged with this rule of thumb being the de facto operational approach of the vast majority of Republican voters. The energy and money of the newest generation of grassroots activists will power some conservatives from less electable to more electable and might push them to the nomination. Others will fall short. Then in November 2010 everyone will have the chance to participate in a referendum on President Obama and his Congressional supporters, and the idea that conservative voters are going to sit that out in large numbers is laughable.
The idea of a GOP “civil war” is suddenly all the rage among Beltway-Manahttan media elites, for the very obvious reason is that it gives them something to discuss other than Virginia. Democratic spokesmen on the networks tonight –think Paul Begala– will be looking for anything to divert attention from the expected blowout in Virginia and all that it portends for 2010 and the Congressional Democrats who are looking into the political abyss. Victories in New Jersey and/or New York will be icing on the cake. No matter how much noise the talking heads make about anything else, the key story tonight is Virginia, and the spin out of Robert Gibbs –2001’s elections which Democrats won in Virginia and New Jersey didn’t tell us anything about the 2002 elections which Republicans won– is another example of “don’t look at the numbers, look at this” absurdity.
The 2001 races took place in the aftermath of the traumatic attacks on New York and D.C. and the anthrax mailings, and were almost completely non-national races as then President Bush worked with Congressional Republicans and Democrats to respond in a unified fashion to the devastation and fear. A year later, partisan campaigning had returned, and the 2002 races were referenda on President Bush’s conduct of the war on terrorism which was heartily approved of and of Democrat obstructionism, especially in the Senate on judicial nominees, which voters rejected. The vote in 2002 reflected the public’s overall judgment of the behavior of the parties over the previous year.
Partisanship has never left American politics since 2002, and so the 2001 elections are genuine exceptions to any rule about voting and what it means. Tonight’s election in Virginia, in stark contrast to the vote in 2001, is a highly partisan referenda on Obamacare and Obamanomics in a key state which the president carried in 2008. It pits a center-left Democrat –not a pure liberal or left winger– against a conservative, and the conservative is going to win going away. Bob McDonnell is going to win because the state’s electorate is aghast at what is going on in D.C. It is a vote against the president the state voted for one year ago.
There is no other way to read the Virginia result, and it portends a big win for Republicans in 2010 especially of Democrats force through the hyper-destructive Obamacare which is deeply unpopular and growing more so every day. Given the near constant attacks on McDonnell by the MSM and the vast amount of resources the DNC and the Democratic Governors Association poured into trying to make Democrat Creigh Deeds competititve, the message from Virginia is loud and clear: The center of the country’s political spectrum has rejected the president’s policies. Decisively so. Every commentator who spent any part of 2008 talking about the significance of President Obama’s campaign in Virginia knows this, and the partisan supporters of the president will be doing their best tonight to focus on anything else but the Virginia vote is the one that matters by far the most.
So while there will certainly be some intra-party dust-ups in the run-up to next year’s elections, they won’t be changing the arc of the storyline that is already unfolding. Some GOP “moderates” will have to tack to the right, and a couple may even be defeated, but the vast, vast majority of new activism is directed at defeating the Congressional Democrats who have cooperated in President Obama’s great lurch left.
If the network you watch tonight is not spending most of its time talking about Virginia, it is avoiding the central story, which is one that ought to shake Congressional Democrats as they approach their votes on Obamacare.