National Issues, Local Concerns
Thursday, November 10, 2005 :::
The Wall Street Journal Online is free this week, so what better time to link to this article by Fred Barnes on the election results.
Fred has a different take on things than some of the rest of us. But he does make an interesting point that has the added option of being wrong:
The odd thing is that if Mr. Kilgore had been running against Mr. Kaine for the Senate, he might have won. Senate races are highly ideological in Virginia. But governor's contests are quite different: They are non-ideological. Mr. Kaine adjusted to this reality, jettisoning the liberalism of his days as mayor of Richmond. Mr. Kilgore stuck to his conservative views with only a few fudges.
I believe the Allen-Terry race was fairly ideological. I certainly believe the Gilmore-Beyer race was ideological. Early-Warner, certainly less-so. Kaine-Kilgore had its ideological moments. And I know plenty of people who would say, and have said, Kilgore never fully articulated his conservative views. Kaine did everything he could to blur the ideological lines, going so far as to call himself a conservative.
Then there is this:
Mr. Kilgore assumed that portraying Mr. Kaine as a "liberal" would stigmatize him and in a Senate race it might have. Conservative wedge issues would "break his back," Kilgore aides said privately. They were wrong. Independent voters dismissed those issues (illegal immigration, the death penalty) as irrelevant in Virginia today. A Republican official active in the Kilgore campaign concluded that "calling someone a liberal doesn't mean anything today."
Yes, there were a lot of wedge issues thrown around in this contest..on both sides. Kilgore used them far more, without question. But does his failure mean that they are useless? Hardly. Ending parole and "no car tax" are wedges, too. And obviously successful.
But like so many pieces written about these results, the last word comes from Larry Sabato, who tells Fred that Kilgore had no great issues.
Barnes manages to come full circle and probably still doesn't realize it. Issues do matter. But it's probably closer to the truth to say, as Bob Holsworth did last month in Richmond, that there was no central theme. Granted, if there had been one, whichever candidate had coined it would have been derided as somehow cheapening the political process, or reducing matters of state to whatever can fit on a bumper sticker.
Perhaps the best big theme is the one Reagan used way back in 1980: are you better off now than you were four years ago? More people said yes on Tuesday than not. And Kaine won.
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 11/10/2005