Some Democrats are wringing their hands over Leslie Byrnes nomination for Lt. Governor. And as I suggested last night, even though they admit less than stellar results, some conservatives think that by raising the tax issue, they won a victory. (Read the comments.) That’s like saying that because you can field a team that gets trounced, you are somehow a winner.
Regarding Byrne, she has a lot to overcome. The impression many have is that she is somehow arrogant. She’s never struck me that way. But then except for a couple of conversations, I don’t have any greater knowledge of her demeanor than the average voter. The deciding factors will be how she handles herself in public, what strategy she employs and how the media characterizes her. If I were her, I’d be battling the media from day one whenever they write off the race and a classic fight between liberals and conservatives. She’s got to get reporters to focus on issues.
In fact, she has an opportunity to test some new positioning. I’ve heard she’s done it in some speeches, talking about Democratic values in a different way. At the very least, she’s not afraid of talking about values. Unlike Kaine, however, she seem true to Democratic principles. I’d like her to really focus on GOP women. As the only woman on the statewide tickets, she can appeal to GOP women who worry about abortion being outlawed and are turned off by the GOP’s rhetoric of intolerance. She might get traction focusing on higher ed and its accessibility. Higher income families worry that their kids can’t get into the best schools and lower income families worry that their kids can’t afford it. I don’t know if she can be a nurturing mama but it’s worth a shot. Turnout in NOVA will be the critical factor.
I worry that Kaine’s candidacy will suppress turnout. Nobody I talk to seems excited about him.
If indeed taxes are not the issue with an overriding majority of voters, what then drives them in November? For the conservative middle, if it isn’t gays or abortion, then what? That’s the critical question Kaine has to ask himself. Transportation and land use certainly are important to the metro areas, but what about the rural ones? Again, it may be education. Clearly a college degree is more important than ever. Can the Dems craft some compelling policies that provide opportunities for all? And can they acknowledge and address the values of those who find our coarsening culture offensive, without sounding condescending, opportunistic or censorial? That to me is an intriguing challenge. One can’t help reading stories like this, without thinking that TV, CDs, movies and a generally permissive society are breeding a generation of moral degenerates. But because liberals oppose censorship shouldn’t mean we can’t call upon purveyors of such trash for responsibility. Even if government can’t provide the solution, that doesn’t mean politicians shouldn’t join the chorus.
Responsible spending can still be an attractive issue, but Dems haven’t figured out how to talk about it, much less provide solutions, without sounding anti-tax. Maybe a “five-point plan” to control spending would be helpful.
But the bottom line message of yesterday’s election is that people are turned off to the current political dialogue. Turnout was less than the pessimistic predictions. And it’s responsible articulation that might engage them. That’s where Potts comes in. Even though he hasn’t offered any specifics, his “pox on both their houses” message might resonate enough with moderate GOPers and Dems alike to hurt Kaine/Byrne/Deeds. And keep in mind that money didn’t seem to matter. Petersen far outraised his opponents, but lost to two women in this paternalistic state. Connaughton lost badly despite a dead heat in money. Baril’s strong donations from business groups didn’t seem to level the playing field. Enough money is important. Winning the dollar race doesn’t translate to victory, however. I hope party officials and strategists learn that lesson.
Of course, it may not be message and platform, either. Organization comes into play (see Englin and Craddock).
But for the Dems, poor turnout means defeat. It’s time to take some risks.
As widely echoed by Dems, thank our lucky starts Connaughton lost. He’d be governor in 2010. Which may not be a bad thing, but the Dems would surely lose.