Wow, that was painful.
In one night, the Empire Struck Back, and all of the momentum built from 2014 and 2015 conservative victories was washed away.
Conservative darlings Vince Haley, Susan Stimpson, Dan Moxley, and others were routed in a show of force by a free-spending Establishment that showed no mercy in the destruction of its opponents.
What can we gather by this?
- Candidates matter. Not only does the conservative movement need to recruit candidates who fit the district, they need to be personable and hard working as well. Establishment incumbents like Emmitt Hanger and Bill Howell were 100% wrong on the issues…. But they still knew how to smile. Not that our candidates couldn’t smile too, but making your case personably DOES matter.
- Money matters. This is the most painful lesson to learn for the conservative grassroots. You can’t change the world if you can’t pay the rent. Establishment money flowed like wine into all races, and there was not a single grassroots candidate who was not outspent, sometimes by more than 10-1. Some grassroots candidates tried to pretend it didn’t matter or they could win without fundraising. News flash: you can’t. When you decide to run, if you can’t develop a plan to trim the fundraising deficit to 3-1, don’t run. You still don’t need to outspend an Establishment opponent, but you must compete.
- Outside money matters too. The debut of several conservative outside groups did make a difference in several races. They did not outspend Establishment outside groups, but NAGR, Virginia First Foundation, and others made an impact in several districts. These groups need to be developed and feted for future races.
- Talent matters. The conservative movement needs more young talent to run our campaigns- there was great need but not enough hands to go around. Calling Morton Blackwell?
- Message matters. Too many new candidates feel they have to chase every squirrel that runs past them. Our candidates must stick to the preeminent issues of our time: taxes and spending, with a hat tip to regulations. The worst part of yesterday’s results is that now every liberal Establishment hack will be crowing about how Virginians love higher taxes. Conservative candidates must have message discipline to win.
- If you are a conservative incumbent…. For the love of God, do yourself a favor and choose a Convention or Mass Meeting. Don’t even mess with getting outspent a gajillion to one in a Primary. Just don’t.
- One challenger only, please. The division among Conservatives MUST stop, especially the personal stuff. If there is more than one conservative challenger to an Establishment incumbent, the incumbent wins. Period. Brat would not have won if Greenwald stayed in. Put your differences aside, man up and choose one guy to carry the flag.
- If possible…. Try to have the conservative movement show its diversity. Republican women are hard to beat; the sitting Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates had to spend a million bucks to beat one, and the only grassroots candidate to win yesterday was a woman. Women Republicans get a +5% advantage right off the top; black, Asian and candidates from other ethnic groups also get a bump. Principles are paramount, but messenger matters.
- 2016? Remember, the movie that came after “The Empire Strikes Back” was “Return of the Jedi”. Dave Brat and others fighting for Liberty will return next year. Gird your loins.