Sunday Pundit Watch

On the Sunday after Virginia’s election, pundits looked at the results through lenses large and small.

National political columnist David Broder, writing in the Washington Post, said Virginia was swept up in a national trend toward the pragmatic center. He explained the Virginia gubernatorial race this way:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore ran a classic version of the last decade’s “bring-out-the-base” campaign, promising to fight taxes, crack down on crime, curb abortions, impose the death penalty — and, as an added fillip, get tough on illegal immigrants.

He got out the base, but lost heavily in the fast-growing suburbs to Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, the Democrat who campaigned on support for schools and balanced growth.

VCU Professor Robert Holsworth, writing in Richmond Times-Dispatch, had the most complete and thorough examination of the forces that coalesced to produce Kaine’s victory:

Outcomes are determined by the choices candidates make and the campaigns they wage. The Kaine campaign tied itself as closely as possible to Warner’s popularity, but shrewdly did not attempt to mimic the Warner campaign of 2001, highlighting the distinctive features of Kaine’s identity and capitalizing on the changing demographics of Virginia’s suburbs.

Holsworth also looked ahead:

Kaine’s major challenge will be in building legislative support for initiatives that many may see as extending beyond the actual mandate of a stay-the-course election.

Looking at Tuesday’s election both large and small was Bob Gibson of the Daily Progress. Gibson reviewed some the stunning suburban results, then focused on the 32nd District race between Republican anti-abortion activist Dick Black and Democrat David Poisson. Gibson read much into Black’s juvenile tactic of mispronouncing Poisson’s name as “Poison”:

People who go out of their way to mispronounce a name may be saying more about how they view fairness and courtesy than they might realize.

Even in politics, language still matters and civility is still a part of the art of persuasion.

Black, of course, lost decisively.

Going very small was Jeff Schapiro of the Times-Dispatch, writing that Tim Kaine’s victory was “revenge” for former Republican Governor Linwood Holton, Kaine’s father-in-law. Holton is apparently one of Schapiro’s all-time favorites, and with the distinguished breakthrough Virginian recovering in the hospital from cancer surgery, his sentiments are understandable.

For disheartened Republicans, retired military officer Del. Scott Lingamfelter tries to rally the troops with an “after action report.” Writing in the Times-Dispatch:

Some pundits have suggested that we lost the governor’s race because of negative campaigning coupled with a demographic shift in Loudoun and Prince William in Northern Virginia. In reality, we fell short in delivering a clear and persuasive message to our party’s base and swing voters who are anxious for real governmental reform.

Lingamfelter also presents a Republican agenda/call to arms. Somebody needed to.

Still to be heard from: Margaret Edds, Gordon Morse, Melanie Scarborough, Barnie Day, and Pat McSweeney.

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10 responses to “Sunday Pundit Watch”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    If Lingamfelter’s, “call to arms”, results in the party keeping on the same course, I see no point in it.

    David Broder summed it up best with his, “pragmatic center” comment.

    The goal of the Republican Party should be to woo more centrist voters back. That being said, you have to realize that centrists don’t have a problem pulling the lever for a Democrat if they feel it’s in their best interest. That’s why Tim Kaine is now the Governor.

    The current party orthodoxy is totally focused on the Party “base” and that’s simply not enough to put you over the top statewide.

  2. Anonymous Avatar


    I was amazed to see Lingamfelter dredging up opposition to gay marriage as an issue – when gay marriage is already forbidden in Virginia. Further anti-gay efforts, such as Marrs’ recent campaign, have not exactly distinguished themselves.

    Marrs is the poster boy for why this is a bad strategy.

  3. Will Vehrs Avatar

    I commend Norm Leahy’s take on Lingamfelter, especially the “tangled up with the marching band” image:

  4. My only quibble with Broder is about Kilgore trying to “curb abortions”. Can someone remind me again what he said about abortion at the debates? Oh yeah, that’s right: nothing.

  5. Becky Dale Avatar

    Here’s Barnie’s column and Patrick’s column. Glad you’re back giving us a round-up, Will.

  6. Barnie Day Avatar

    I think some of the later analysis will probably conclude two things: (1) Republicans gave Kaine the win–no, not the 60,000-plus who voted a split ticket, and no, not the NOVA and Tidewater suburbs (they were symptoms)–but the 16 Republican House members, led by Bryant and Jones, who gave Warner a win on the tax hike and legitimacy to the “sensible center,” that is going to be his national pitch. Without that victory he has no “win” no “sensible center” no administration marquee issue. But this was dependent on the second factor for all of its traction: (2) a rebounding state economy that produced the budget surplus. Nobody articulates this, but a trusim attendent to any surplus is that surpluses only accrue when earnings are going up. I suspect that an examination of the fine details would reveal that most of the surplus is being driven by capital gains and corporate profits, but in the end these all flow to individuals. My guess is that Kaine ultimately won because of the perceived linkage between the “bipartisan,” “cooperative” aspect of the “win” the gang of 16 gave Warner and the increased individual earnings inherent in this surplus. In the final analysis, most folks still vote their pocketbooks–or try to. I doubt there is any causal connection between the tax increase and the uptick in the economy, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is perception. Of course, observers of every stripe have hung out a week’s worth of laundry on why Kaine won and Kilgore lost (not the same events, by the way), and I think all have some legitimacy, but without these two seminal events–Warner’s bipartisan win on the tax increase and the concurrent, unrelated, uptick in the economy that produced the surplus–this election may well have turned out differently. But, hey, I could be wrong!

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    David Broder is often wrong, and he was in this article. I haven’t spoken with a single “hard conservative” republican who thinks Kilgore ran to please them. Kilgore specifically tried to appease the “sensible center” that Broder extolls. He did NOTHING but give lip service to the right-wing base of the party.

    Where was his pledge to push back gun control measures? To roll back the tax increase, or finish the car tax repeal? To really take any action at all on Abortion? He wouldn’t promise not to raise taxes, or fill out the VCDL survey. He wouldn’t answer the abortion question.

    Even on the death penalty, he did nothing to explain why his proposals to expand the death penalty was good for Virginia, and Kaine wouldn’t support it — instead running ads about the status quo and how Kaine couldn’t be trusted.

    The few things Kilgore actually “proposed” that might be considered conservative were barely so, and he dropped them in october. For example, anybody remember an ad about his vaunted “5% real estate tax cap”?

    How about school vouchers? I missed that ad. What was his “proposal” for illegal immigration? He talked about it.

    No, his big last-minute pitch was promising to do whatever it took (meaning lots of tax money) to widen Rte 66 inside the beltway (BOTH WAYS!!!). Kaine was promising to widen the outbound lane, so apparently the “sensible center” is get people OUT of the city, and the “hard right” base irrationally wants to get TO work quicker as well.

    In other words, that isn’t a “conservative/liberal” argument. Little of what Kilgore gave us was a “conservative/liberal” argument.

    Somone else said it best. The race was a referendum on whether Kaine was “Warner II”. Kaine said he was, Kilgore said he wasn’t, and in the end people decidede Warner knew better who was “Warner II” than Kilgore did.

  8. Becky Dale Avatar

    And here is Edds’s column. VA Pilot doesn’t get its Sunday articles up until way late.

  9. Will Vehrs Avatar

    Thanks, Becky. I was waiting until Pat and Barnie appeared in the BR e-zine to note them ….

  10. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    I agree with Barnie Day essentially, but use different words based on my partisan and ideological perspective. The 17 GOP apostates in the HD gave the election to Kaine – when Kilgore made the decision to not run hard against the ’04 Chicken Little Tax Con.

    Another reason why VA’s economy is growing is the dumping of Federal dollars since NoVa is part of ever-growing Metro ‘Rome’ and Hampton Roads gets Imperial Defense dollars.

    There isn’t a sensible center on social issues. There is definitely a sensible center on governance – filling the pot holes, ete.

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