The last statewide win the Virginia GOP has savored, besides George W. Bush winning Virginia in 2004, was Senator John Warner in 2002. The GOP hasn’t even sniffed the Governor’s Mansion since 2001, with the exception for meetings with Governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine over coffee and doughnuts. To say the Virginia GOP is hungry to regain Governorship would be an understatement.
The Virginia GOP has continued to see their huge majority in the House of Delegates shrink to where the Democrats now need six seats to regain control. They have lost their majority of the State Senate, lost both U.S. Senate seats to the Democrats and to top everything off, Virginia went for a Democratic Presidential candidate for the first time since 1964 and Democrats now have six of the eleven U.S. House seats.
If these were normal times (whatever those might be), the political wisdom and the law of averages would point to a GOP victory in November. Due to the financial crisis and the recession, on top of bitter in-fighting and a growing perception that the GOP is the political party of exclusion and old white guys, they will be lucky to hold onto any of their current House of Delegate seats. The question becomes, can the Virginia GOP stop the hemorrhaging of their base and stay a viable political party in Virginia?
The Republican Party as a whole is a far cry from being the Party of Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, or even Eisenhower. The GOP has shifted so far to the right that it is safe to say that they have now become what they labeled and assailed Democrats as, completely out of touch and out of the mainstream of American Values. The voices of reason in the GOP have virtually been drowned out by the voices of intolerance like Rush Limbaugh, former Congressmen Tom Tancredo and Newt Gengrich, and evangelical faith leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr.
Who knows what version of the Republican Party of Virginia will emerge from this weekend’s Convention. Will it be the Virginia GOP of Jeff Frederick, Chris Saxman, Jim Gilmore, Steve Newman, Morgan Griffith, or Virgil Goode? Or will it be the Virginia GOP of Harry Blevins, Preston Bryant, Vince Callahan, Harvey Morgan, or former U.S. Senator John Warner? As a progressive, a populist, a Democrat, I hope that it is the former but as a citizen of this Commonwealth, I can live with the latter.