Politics is in the eye of the beholder.
Post-mortems now gushing forth about why Ken Cuccinelli, conservative Republican candidate for governor in Virginia, lost to Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a business-as-usual political retread from the Clinton crowd, tell us more about who produces this punditry than what reality actually might be.
We’re hearing that the tea party killed Cuccinelli (according to the Wall Street Journal editorial page, they “stabbed him in the back”) with the government shutdown and that, once again, a socially conservative Republican candidate has shown he can’t win the votes of women.
What I see is very different. What I see is a Republican Party that still has not learned the necessary lessons to reverse setbacks of recent years.
It was not the tea party that stabbed Ken Cuccinelli in the back but the establishment of his own party. Once a real conservative candidate gets nominated, the party loses interest. And because they lose interest, they hold back funds, thus assuring their own prediction that this candidate can’t win.
Cuccinelli lagged in total funding by $14 million. In the early months of the campaign, because of lack of funding, he was brutally attacked in ads that went unanswered.
Regarding the shutdown – supposedly of disproportionate impact because so many Northern Virginians work for the federal government – Cuccinelli was well behind in the polls for months before the shutdown even occurred. Again, largely because of unanswered attack ads.
The Republican establishment can’t seem to grasp that they would have helped their cause by embracing the defund-Obamacare efforts of tea partiers Ted Cruz and Mike Lee.
Every day Americans see more clearly what a disaster Obamacare – the Affordable Care Act – is. If Republican leadership would have unified clearly around the efforts of Cruz and Lee, and the American people got a clear picture of Republican unity and commitment to slay the Obamacare monster, it would have helped the party and Cuccinelli.
It is also clear that Republicans still haven’t gotten the message about race and the changing demographics of the country.
When Barack Obama won the presidency in 2012, while winning just 38 percent of the white vote, Republicans supposedly learned something.
Those lessons appear to have been lost in Virginia.
Virginia has a large black population, 50 percent higher than the national average. Terry McAuliffe got 90 percent of the black vote, as did Creigh Deeds, the Democratic candidate for governor in Virginia in 2009.
The difference is that in this election, blacks constituted 20 percent of the overall vote, up four points from 16 percent in 2009. So the impact of the black vote grew in 2013.
That increase of 4 points of the black vote as a percentage of the total vote could have made the difference alone, given that Cuccinelli lost by 2.5 points.
The Republican candidate for lieutenant governor was a no-nonsense black pastor, graduate of Harvard Law School, E.W. Jackson.
This would have been a classic opportunity for the Republican Party to aggressively visit black churches, talk about the conservative religious values these black Americans care so dearly about, and explain the deep damage welfare-state policies and secular humanism embraced by Democrats has done in black communities. Where were they?
Then there is the claim that conservative candidates can’t attract women.
Not true. It’s not about gender but about marriage.
Cuccinelli captured the votes of both married men (50 percent) and married women (51 percent). It was the unmarried vote that McAuliffe captured (51 percent single men, 67 percent single women).
Republicans have not failed in recent years as result of being too bold or too conservative.
They have failed due to lack of clarity, conviction and courage.
The defeat of Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia is not an encouraging sign that Republicans have learned their lessons.