How Virginia's Election Will Teach Republicans to Swing Right

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 6 2013 10:13 AM

How Virginia's Election Will Teach Republicans to Swing Right

My piece from Richmond and the Republican Party's "ah, well" election celebration has a rather harsher title than it probably deserves. Republicans lost, but by the end, they expected to lose—the point of the piece is that they lost by only 50,000-odd votes, and this encouraged them to think that their closing message of attacking Obamacare was a winner.

"If the election were held next Tuesday, I think Cuccinelli wins," said Brian Baker, who works with the conservative super PAC Ending Spending, which spent big on Senate races in 2012. "The election was closing fast—our polls showed that. We took a poll, the same pollster we used in the Tea Party Senate races we won in 2012, and it showed Cuccinelli down by 1. No one in the media wanted it."

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Well, guilty. But would Obamacare be as potent in November 2014 as it was during the week when everyone was talking about losing individual insurance plans and the crashing website? "It shouldn't take that long to fix the website," said Baker, "but the underlying problems about restrictions on doctors, on costs, or rising premiums—that will be potent in 2014. Obamacare is toxic."

Republicans at the party, veterans of the campaign, were reasonably proud of going the distance after some polling had shown them down by double digits. They were also a little bitter at the lack of support from outside. The RNC, one pointed out, had spent $9 million during 2009's gubernatorial race, a blowout that never got close. It spent $3 million this time, and all on "field," not TV. And where was RNC Chairman Reince Priebus tonight? Not in Virginia—at the sure-thing Christie party in New Jersey.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.