My wife Beth and I went to vote yesterday at our usual polling place on the University of Virginia campus. I went with no enthusiasm, more out of a sense of duty, I suppose, and of bearing witness.
Outside the polling place were two pavilions for last minute canvassing. The Republican tent was, characteristically, empty, while the Democrat team, with blue and green McAuliffe banners flying, looked cool and smug.
For good reason. They had waged a ruthless, vicious, dishonest and brilliant campaign-- not just to elect Terry McAuliffe governor but to discredit and destroy the Virginia Republican Party, and Republicans both in Washington and Richmond let it happen.
The Cuccinelli campaign has to have been the worst for a state office I’ve seen in a long time.
But as I said, the Democrats were brilliant.
First, starting this summer they and the local media began destroying the reputation of our sitting GOP governor Bob McDonnell with a feeding frenzy of stories about how a wealthy backer had given McDonnell and his family gifts and financial help (which McDonnell later returned). That not only took McDonnell, who's been a successful and popular governor — some even considered him a presidential contender in 2016 — out as kingmaker for Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign. It also poisoned the well for all Republicans in the state, and made them look like the party of corruption and sleaze. And when you are running against Terry McAuliffe, that’s saying something.
Republican response: silence.
A host of liberal feminist groups like Planned Parenthood launched a barrage of ads portraying Cuccinelli as the second coming of the Salem witch trials.
Republican response: nothing.
Then a Texas Obama bundler named Joe Liemandt began bankrolling Robert Sarvis to run as a libertarian candidate for governor, fatally splitting the GOP vote.
Republican response: a long deer-in-the-headlights stare at polls that showed Sarvis wasn't going away until literally the day before the election the Cuccinelli campaign got Ron Paul to come out and denounce far too late Sarvis’s bogus campaign.
Fourth and equally fatally, the national GOP decided to pull the money plug on Cuccinelli in October, deeming him unelectable.
Given the feebleness of the campaign’s efforts thus far, that might have seemed justified. But it’s becoming clear the real reason was to be able to blame the looming debacle in Virginia on the Tea Party and the advocates of government shutdown like Ted Cruz.
That plan has backfired. Instead, the GOP missed the opportunity to seize on the growing disenchantment with Obamacare—disenchantment that almost upset the Democrats’ best laid plans here in Virginia at the last minute, and came to within 55,000 votes of pushing Cuccinelli over the finish line. Now even the mainstream media are saying the GOP made a major error in not backing Cuccinelli.
Meanwhile, here in Virginia we’re stuck with the equivalent of a Soprano family capo as governor –a liberal Soprano capo. We’re also stuck with a broken Virginia GOP and the same feckless GOP national leadership.
Sophocles said those whom the gods want to destroy they first drive insane. Today they just make them Virginia Republicans.