November 9, 2005
Yes, it does feel a little like a ski-jumper tumbling head over heels, like they used to show at the beginning of ABC's Wide World of Sports. Unlike the defeat suffered by Democrats last year, however, I seriously doubt that many Republicans will engage in deranged hysteria. Our candidate wasn't up to the task, it's as simple as that. Life goes on. Don't get me wrong, last year's "thrill of victory" was a lot more fun than this year's setback, but it is through defeats that one is able to learn and prepare for the next round of battle.
On the plus side, all four Republicans running for the House of Delegates in this part of the Shenandoah Valley won their races: Congratulations to Chris Saxman, Ben Cline, and Matt Lohr. (Steve Landes was unopposed.) The attorney general race is still too close to call, with three precincts out of 2426 yet to count. Bob McDonnell holds a lead of only 2,000 or so votes over Mr. Deeds, a margin of 0.1 percent. I was a bit disturbed by the way Governor Warner pandered to his party's loose-screw wing last night by demanding, "count every vote!" Please, let's not go through all that nonsense again. Just do the recount and agree to accept the results.
Today's Washington Post editorial called Kaine's victory a "watershed" for southern Democrats, concluding
Mr. Kaine's triumph proves that a strong, smart candidate can win in Virginia regardless of party affiliation and that hot-button attacks and crass wedge-issue politics are not enough to defeat him. By thumping away at Mr. Kaine's stands on the death penalty and illegal immigration, Mr. Kilgore tried to play on voters' fears. He failed, and that offers a lesson that should be heeded beyond the state's borders.
I think Kilgore's error in pushing those issues was in style, not substance. Ironically, his harsh rhetorical tone on the campaign trail backfired in terms of addressing those particular issues. As for national implications, Senator George Allen's prospects as the GOP presidential nominee have taken a big plunge, while those of Governor Mark Warner have soared. For those who hope the Democrats return toward the center of the political spectrum, that is a good thing. More generally, unless someone can convince me otherwise, I think this election demonstrates the mistaken effort by Republican strategists to maximize the turnout among the committed conservatives and party loyalists. That strategy was in part motivated by the nature of Virginia's electoral system, which was designed to discourage turnout in statewide elections. That is one more reason why the Generaly Assembly should pass a constitutional amendment to get rid of the off-year election cycle for statewide offices.
Finally, congratulations are due to Governor-elect Kaine. Although he has skirted tough choices on transportation, as the Post editorial noted, I happen to agree with him on the need to extend Metrorail to Dulles Airport and widen I-66 inside the Washington Beltway -- regardless of what those "NIMBY" folks in Arlington who blocked a baseball stadium may think. I hope Kaine shows as much concern for Virginia's fiscal soundness as Governor Warner has, and that he remembers that the Republicans still have a majority in the legislature.
I saw Mary Mapes on ABC's Good Morning America today, and was stunned by her unapologetic, defiant attitude over last year's bogus CBS Sixty Minutes story on President Bush's service in the Air National Guard, relying on forged documents. She actually said that unless the source materials used to substantiate news stories can be proven false, they should be accepted as valid. Yikes! Go back to Journalism 101, Mary.