I must confess on election night I almost shed a tear(a manly tear of course) when I heard that the Dems won Virginia. I was hoping to keep Lyndon Johnson's record of being the last Democrat to carry Virginia's electoral votes alive for another 40 years.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that not only did we lose the state's electoral votes, but pending recounts, we may also lose two of our best members of Congress, Thelma Drake and Virgil Goode.
Democrats and UVA Professors, such as Larry Sabato, are gleefully claiming that Virginia is turning blue. They cite the last two gubernatorial elections which elected Democrats, their takeover of the State Senate and now Obama's victory. I do think it is important to point out that Republicans still control the House of Delegates, holds the Lt.Governors chair and the keys to the Attorney Generals office.
While it is true that the Democrats have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years to me it does not suggest a realignment of the old dominion.
There are 5 main reasons Democrats have been beating us. Good news, all of them are reversible.
First, many of our wounds are self inflicted. For example, we have nominated incredibly weak candidates(think Mark Earley and Jerry Kilgore), who have done a poor job motivating Virginia Republicans. The state party has been very poorly run, in fact for much of this decade the state party has been broke. We have also spent much of this decade fighting each other! Accusing many of our fellow Republicans of being "Rinos".
Second, Democrats have nominated good candidates and have outworked us at the polls. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine were very good candidates. They mobilized their base and reached out to many Virginians that are inclined to vote Republican. While they have been expanding their base we have been stuck fighting each other.
Third, George W. Bush! His approval rating is very low even in Virginia which voted for him in 2000 and 2004. I would point out that contrary to conventional wisdom Bush is not unpopular because he is conservative rather he is unpopular because he has governed as a liberal- high spending, a wilsonian foreign policy, expansion of government, failure to enforce our immigration laws and protect the border, etc. No doubt that this unpopularity has been an albatross around the necks of all GOP candidates.
Fourth, Republicans have taken the heat for a weak economy, and a tanking stock market. Now that we are out of power, this won't/shouldn't hurt us anymore.
The fifth reason is Northern Virginia. Once a swing region NOVA has been increasingly hostile territory for Republicans, however, I don't believe that it is irretrievably lost. I do believe Republicans can do much better here if we focus on the issues that northern Virginians care about. Less talk about social issues, that doesn't mean become more liberal, rather we need to talk more about conservative SOLUTIONS to the problems of Transportation and Education. We also need to do a far better job reaching out to recent immigrants who may vote Democrat, but have conservative values. Many immigrants share our conservative values, such as strong families, low taxes and limited government. We need to speak to them.
To be more specific I would suggest five things that might help the GOP in NOVA
First, Advocate a repeal HOV. Taxpayers should be allowed to use the roads they are paying for whenever they want.
Second, pledge to support the widening of 66 inside the beltway.
Third, Emphasis education reform, including, but not limited to school choice.
Fourth, sustain a strong recruitment effort among NOVA's immigrant communities.
Fifth, Give more philosophical leeway to Northern Virginia Republicans. It is hard to be socially conservative and get elected up here. While I am a social conservative, I know how tough it can be up here politically.
The good news is that all of the negative factors that have hurt us can be reversed fairly quickly.
My fellow Republicans with hard work, a better outreach program, a unified party and ideas to improve our commonwealth we can come back. We can paint Virginia red again!