I saw this coming. I didn’t want to, but I saw it coming.
Two weeks out of the election, I told my colleague Bruce Schlesman that I thought the Republicans would get 17 seats in the Senate and 47 in the House. I was off, but not by much.
Anyone here in Northern VA who was watching a football game would have said the same.
On one hand you had Russet Perry, an attractive prosecutor who presented herself (falsely) as tough on crime. She looked straight into the camera and told you something good about herself, and something bad about her opponent. Both were lies, but they were convincing.
On the other hand, Juan Pablo Segura- a campaign by a rich kid who carpetbagged into the district to run for State Senate- had a campaign run by Axiom, possibly the worst consulting shop in the country, and one concerned with enriching themselves rather than winning races.
And boy, did it show. Segura’s ads were absolutely awful. Unwatchable. They used weak attacks against Perry while not refuting anything against Segura.
Example? Perry worked with Buta Biberaj, the now-defeated, now-disgraced former Commonwealth’s Attorney in Loudoun County. But did Segura mention it? Or mention Biberaj’s scandals? NO.
There are reasons candidates lose. Let’s go through some.
- Awful candidates. Juan Pablo Segura was one example, but there were others. The Governor’s office- especially his political staff consisting of Matt Moran and Axiom’s Kristin Davidson- were atrocious. They spent heavy in primaries, supporting less conservative candidates who also had no reason to run for office, other than wanting power. Some had no connection to the area they ran in, like Segura. He was “chosen” because his dad is rich. Others just had no real chops, didn’t work hard on fundraising, and made bad mistakes. We have to do better, and oftentimes doing better means Richmond NOT trying to tell people who their representatives should be. Let the people decide and support their choices.
- Messaging. The Governor and now-former Speaker decided that this would be a Seinfeld campaign. A campaign about nothing.
Candidates were expressly forbidden from taking policy stands, lest they get a stern and threatening call from Youngkin or Gilbert. Candidates were expected to be pincushions as the Democrats savaged Republican candidates with lies and attacks on several issues, primarily abortion. Any attempt to go on offense was squashed. This was the worst mistake. You cannot beat something with nothing. There should have been a plan, an agenda, that candidates should have run on. There was none. It was a campaign about nothing, whereas Dems had abortion. Not much, but it beat nothing.
Also: Hey, VA has a Democrat President parked across the river who is less popular than herpes. Did YOU see a single ad trying to nationalize the election by tying it to Biden? I didn’t. Not one. We should have seen them all the time. Virginia’s Republican consultants and gurus are massively just politically tone deaf. They are living in the 1990s but this is a different Virginia.
- Where’s the offense?
Truth is, the Trump years should have taught us all something. It should have taught us that you NEVER retreat, you NEVER say you’re sorry, you NEVER stop attacking the other side. We ran “excuse me” campaigns with no bite and it cost us.
Example: The Dems chose as their new Speaker Don Scott from Portsmouth, a convicted crack dealer who spent 7 years in the Federal clink.
Didn’t know that? You should have. Aside from the fact that the jokes write themselves there- after all, the Dem Delegates will wind up voting like they are all on crack- it plays right into the crime narrative, which should have been front and center. It wasn’t, at least not in an effective way.
Go on offense on abortion. Expose the Dems’ extremism.
Go on offense on taxes. Get rid of the car tax!
Go on offense on regulations. Why not talk about the California plan to get rid of gas cars, that Dems here voted for?
Heck, try anything! I mean come on Republicans! Anyone in leadership during this debacle should be so embarrassed they should resign. That includes Moran and Davison. That includes Gilbert. That includes Rich Anderson.
Political incompetence on this level does not deserve a reward.
I credit the Gov for this much: He did raise money. It just wasn’t spent wisely.
The candidates? They deserve a LOT of blame.
Let me break something to you. If you’re a candidate and you don’t start really fundraising until the year of your election, you’re going to lose. Badly.
Fundraising isn’t the ogre in the closet you can afford to ignore until it’s too late. It’s the thing you have to work hard at constantly.
Without Youngkin, Republicans would have been slaughtered 7-1 on fundraising instead of merely 1.5-1. Our candidates did awful at this. Both caucuses also did awful, which is part of the reason both need new leadership.
If you can’t get motivated to work hard at fundraising to represent the people you want to represent, just don’t run. Just don’t. We will do fine without you, I promise.
- We hate conservatives, but please come vote anyway!
If you think keeping conservatives down is your pathway to victory in an off-off-year election, you should never hold any office or power in any way. Ever.
Whoever thought that it was a good idea to demoralize and trample on the conservative base- which already is fleeing VA in droves- in an election year where ONLY the two party bases vote, is an damned idiot.
In an off-off-year election, only the most motivated voters vote. That’s exclusively the party bases, basically. So you REALLY need to pump up your party’s base. But that didn’t happen here, and the GOP base was given ZERO reason to come vote.
The Gov spent a lot against conservative candidates in primaries. Also, base messaging that works- like parents rights and crime- was largely abandoned.
You MUST give the base a reason to turn out. If you don’t know what makes them turn out, then you’re an idiot who shouldn’t be making those decisions.
- Virginia in 2023 is not the Virginia of 2003.
Used to be more Republicans here. But not anymore.
One thing that was a consistent issue which my clients were making donor calls, was how many Republicans- especially in Northern VA- are now Texas or Florida Republicans. It’s about 1 in every 3 Republican donors that were here in 2019.
If that’s the case of Republicans in general, Virginia is lost. Not gettable.
The issue is the same as NY or California. Those states are being SO badly run by Democrats, that normal people don’t want to live there. Loudoun and Fairfax especially have devolved into unwieldy, crime infested, expensive, high-tax locations with little to no benefit to stay. That’s why Republicans are leaving.
The Governor had a chance to stem this issue by governing more based, and driving off some of the extreme leftists up here. But he didn’t- and really, he hasn’t done almost anything at all since becoming governor. That kind of record won’t get the job done, and it won’t convince normal people to stay in unliveable, unlikeable, Northern Virginia.
If this sounds pessimistic, it is. This was the one election Republicans could not screw up, and they did. Whoever is left in VA among Republicans should hoist our leadership up on a petard. They deserve it.
This was bungled from the get-go. If there is to be a renaissance here, it will have to come from new blood and new candidates and maybe new consultants. The old ones just aren’t capable.