Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Some Observations

Regarding last night, I'm not going to gloat, but I do want to offer a few tidbits I think are interesting. Some of these are from my insider perspective as a heavily-involved grassroots volunteer in the campaign, others are simply general ones.

1) Leslie Byrne sucks.
She's terrible. She's a loser with a track record of spectacular losses. The idiots that put her in the Lt. Gov. spot thinking she could ever possibly win deserve Bolling. It's amazing she didn't bring Kaine down like a lead balloon with her given such overwhelming loserness.

2) Ticket Splitting was rampant. As we were watching the precincts come in at headquarters, you saw it everywhere. You can see it in the overall count too, but it was true on a precinct-by-precinct basis. People were voting for Tim Kaine, and then turning around and voting for Bolling and McDonnell, or Bolling and Deeds. I think this is definitely true partly because of Leslie Byrnes overwhelming powers of losing elections. But, it illustrates that the tendency of Virginians (god bless it too) is still more strongly based on voting for an individual over a party. They liked Kaine, didn't like his ticket mates. Or, they liked Kilgore's ticket mates, and didn't like Kilgore. This says a lot about both Kaine and Kilgore, especially in a state where 55% voted for Bush and 45% voted for Kerry a year ago (but Kerry sucks actually MORE than Leslie Byrne does, as the data shows, which is amazing and should be politically impossible). I almost did it myself, my finger hovering over the Lt. Gov. slot wondering if I should vote for Bolling in protest about Leslie Byrne. That says a lot.

3) Kaine's campaign was well-executed. The grassroots ops were the most organized thing I've ever seen. Every regional office and county committee was making heavy use of GIS mapping tools and had been doing months of voter ID to make the GOTV targeted and more effective. And it worked. But, besides that, there was the whole general thrust of it. In the closing days, as Kilgore went increasingly negative and Swift Boat Howell was all over him with the Hitler ads, many Democrats were enraged and wanted Kaine to fire back and run just as many negative ads against Kilgore. Kaine didn't do it, and it was a good move. Any campaign has to have a plan, and it has to have positive elements to it. The "vision thing" Karl Rove treasures so much. Kaine learned the lessons of the Bush campaign of 2000 and 2004 well, and put them into practice. That, and Kaine had a decent record to stand on. Kilgore didn't learn the lesson of 2004, and ended up looking more like or John Kerry with his relentless attacking and no attempt to offer initiatives of his own. As much as NRO and Weekly Standard wanted to paint Kaine as Kerry, Kaine campaigned and acted a lot more like Bush.

4) George Allen is going to be a strong Presidential candidate. Yes, Prince, you've been saying this all along. I credit you for it. Fact is, I didn't want to believe it. Allen effectively delivered Kilgore's concession speech last night. It was, to say the least, incredibly mature, sober, and still positive. Allen showed himself to be someone of consistency when he referred to Kaine's win as "the will of the majority" and that Republican's must "accept the will of the majority." He proceeded then to talk about how both Kaine and Kilgore shared a deep love of Virginia. Then he proceeded to re-iterate the message of the Republican party in pitch-perfect Reagan terms, as a party that pushes for growth for entrepreneurialism. It was sort of a miniature version of what will undoubtedly be his stump speech in his 2006 re-election and 2008 Presidential campaign. He came off as someone who wasn't a sore loser at all, more as a man ready and willing to learn lessons and improve for the next fight.

Minor Update: I've been checking around, especially on Commonwealth Conservative, and Malkin, and I want to emphasize something more about Point 4). The reaction from these elections shows I think a key strength of Republicans: they take losing the right way. All of them are attempting to read the tea leaves and figure out what went wrong and how they can do better next time. They are not, as Democrats tend to do, screaming "what is wrong with people!" and making shirts about the United States of Jesusland, or all threatening to move to another state/country. Democrats go into hysterics upon losses, which is why it is still taking them time to bounce back fully from 2000. While there's a lot of triumphalism that somehow this is going to be a huge Democratic sweep (something I heard a lot last night but don't buy), I think the Republicans are going to learn some good lessons from these races and fast, and they're going to put them into practice and adapt. This year's Republicans won't be 2006's Republicans, or 2008's. I expect vast improvement.