Through a combination of their own bungling and factors beyond their control, state Republican leaders have seen the party’s “brand” collapse among wide swaths of the electorate in the commonwealth.
But – being the contrarians that we are – we wonder if the Grand Old Party has success looming this November, if it doesn’t manage yet more self-inflicted wounds.
We can, in fact, think of five reasons why Virginia Republicans, if they can find a way to hold together the fractured divisions among their ranks, might be able to snatch victories among some or all of the three statewide offices on the ballot, and also might have a chance at regaining control of the House of Delegates.
In no particular order:
• Voters have short attention spans, so most Virginians already have forgotten that, when they had unfettered control of the executive and legislative branches in the commonwealth, Republicans (like their counterparts in Congress) were of the do-nothing variety except protecting the status quo and their financial backers. That Whig-ish approach to governance helped Democrats muscle in and take control in Richmond, but many voters won’t remember.
• Calling Gov. Northam inept would be overstating it – and we admit, the guy has a knack for political survival – but it can’t be said he’s been a standout as governor. While Northam won’t be on the ballot, his performance will play a role, perhaps a big one, in the thinking of the electorate.
• Democrats, at the state and national levels, are engaged in their own bloodletting, centered largely on identity politics. That could make it hard for once and (he hopes) future Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Attorney-General-for-Life (because he can’t find anything else) Mark Herring to bring together the various party factions. McAuliffe and Herring are not, let’s be honest, emblematic of the diversity that is the crucible on which the current Democratic Party operates. As such, their nominations are not done deals.
• If it hasn’t become clear to everyone yet, it will by November: Joe Biden, the current face of the Democratic Party, is largely a bystander in his own administration, and as those who really are calling the shots in his name continue to show their far-left colors, sensible Virginia voters may decide they need a counterbalance in Richmond.
• Finally, there is the Mae West dictum: “When choosing between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before.” Republicans ran Richmond for a while and were deposed by a weary electorate; eventually Democrats will be, too. Perhaps this will be the year it happens.
Republicans need the proper standard-bearer to pull this all off. Plugged-in Democrats we talk to fear the candidacy of Republican gubernatorial contender Pete Snyder above all else.
His main intra-party opponents – Kirk Cox (too bland and establishment) and Amanda Chase (too stormy and non-establishment) – probably don’t have what it takes to snatch the top job away from Democrats and help down-ballot Republicans. But Snyder might, if the Virginia GOP doesn’t self-immolate while heading toward Nov. 2.