By Lynn R. Mitchell
Former Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling has an excellent op-ed in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch where he noted that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ed Gillespie was able to pull many factions on the right together to come within a less than a point of beating incumbent Mark Warner. While that’s good, it’s still a loss for the Virginia Republican Party which has lost “nine of the past 10 top-of-the-ticket statewide campaigns in Virginia.”
Not to mention the loss of U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor — one of the GOP’s most powerful men in Washington who was from right here in Virginia — defeated by a perfect storm of Democrats, libertarians, and tea partiers.
Bolling’s point in his op-ed was that when Republicans nominate mainstream candidates, they win or, in the case of Gillespie, come darn close (see Gillespie shows the way forward):
Gillespie is a conservative Republican, but he ran a mainstream campaign and was able to attract the support of many moderate and independent voters. That’s what you have to do to win statewide campaigns in Virginia.
Gillespie ran a campaign modeled after that of former Gov. Bob McDonnell in 2009. McDonnell, another conservative Republican, also ran a mainstream campaign and was able to reach out to a broad cross-section of Virginia voters.
McDonnell is the only Republican to win a top-of-the-ticket statewide campaign in Virginia in the past 10 years.
With further explanation of the winning formula that has been missing in the Commonwealth since RPV was taken over by libertarians and tea partiers (my words, not his), he concluded with this:
McDonnell proved this in 2009 by winning an overwhelming victory as governor and, even though he lost in 2014, Gillespie proved the same point by running a much more competitive campaign than anyone expected.
Gillespie may have lost, but his campaign shows Republicans the way forward.
Wise words — proven words — that will probably be ignored by the purists and ideologists who are still harping on the transportation bill that was passed with a bipartisan majority who looked to what was best for Virginians.