Why Virginia Republicans are ‘panicking’

Updated

Jamelle Bouie summarized the issue perfectly yesterday: “The Virginia GOP has essentially posed an experiment: Can we win off-year elections regardless of who we run?”

That’s funny, but it’s not hyperbolic. Virginia is no longer the Republican stronghold it once was, and at least on a statewide level, is competitive Democratic territory. President Obama carried the state twice; the commonwealth has two Democratic U.S. senators, and Democrats have won two of the last three gubernatorial races.

But it’s an off-year cycle, and Republicans are optimistic about their chances this November. At least, they were – in the wake of the party’s convention over the weekend, the state GOP is suddenly “panicking,” largely because this guy is their candidate for lieutenant governor.

National Review reports this morning:

A minister who compared gays to pedophiles and Planned Parenthood to the Klu Klux Klan is not the No. 2 candidate Republican Party reformers had in mind for the marquee race of 2013.

Neither did the top of the ticket, Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli, who has been downplaying his own socially conservative record in favor of a more mainstream message focused on the economy.

The GOP’s slate is, by any fair measure, jarring. The Virginia Republicans’ gubernatorial candidate is one of the fiercest culture warriors of any officeholder in the country. The Virginia Republicans’ candidate for lieutenant governor is almost comically extreme on social issues. The Virginia Republicans’ candidate for attorney general once advocated requiring women to report miscarriages to the police – or face jail time.

It’s almost as if the state GOP went out of its way to think of a scheme to motivate the listless Democratic base, alienate as many women as possible, and drive moderate voters away from Republicans in droves.

So much for rebranding.

Virginia Lt. Gov Bill Bolling, a Republican, said Monday that the surprise GOP pick to succeed him had made “simply indefensible” comments in the past that would only serve to reinforce negative perceptions about the party.

Almost immediately after E.W. Jackson, an African-American pastor, won a stunning, fourth-ballot victory at Saturday’s Virginia GOP convention, a number of inflammatory statements he’s made about gays, race and abortion surfaced, casting a cloud over gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli and the newly minted Republican ticket.

“These kinds of comments are simply not appropriate, especially not from someone who wants to be a standard bearer for our party and hold the second highest elected office in our state,” Bolling said in a statement to POLITICO. “They feed the image of extremism, and that’s not where the Republican Party needs to be.”

Perhaps not, but that’s where the Republican Party finds itself anyway.

Ken Cuccinelli, Culture Wars and Virginia

Why Virginia Republicans are 'panicking'

Updated