Winning is better than losing. This is true in sports, a friendly game of Hearts, and most certainly in politics. Some political losses set you up for the future (i.e. Ronald Reagan in 1976), but as a rule, it’s better to win than to lose. When you win you have the opportunity to implement the plans you’ve concocted, to set the agenda, and to drive the narrative. When you lose, well, you get the idea.
Last night Ken Cuccinelli narrowly lost to Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia Governor’s race. Cuccinelli was down by as many as 17 points in one poll and double-digits in most polls just two weeks ago. There’s a certain satisfaction some may take in the fact he came so close. To be sure, there are things both good and bad Republicans can take out of Cuccinelli’s loss. The flawed rollout of the ACA, and the number of people losing health insurance coverage as a result of the new law became a big issue and helped Cuccinelli immensely (Democrats should be worried about that). The various controversies swirling around “The Macker” played a role as well, but Cuccinelli’s inability to steal more votes the flawed psuedo-Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis became a huge problem for him in a tight race. The postmortems on this race began before the polls opened and this morning the finger pointing on the Right has intensified to a level I’ve never witnessed. This “off with their heads” mentality is something I find troubling.
I’m worried about the future of the Republican Party. If we don’t remember that in order to win we need more people voting with us than less, we’re in serious trouble heading into 2014. The answer to our problems is not to drive out one or another faction but to bring the factions together around strong leadership. Yet this morning, I hear renewed cries of “defund the GOP” and “the TEA Party is destroying us” and “we’ve got to get rid of those crazy religious fanatics.” All of those statements ignore the simple truth than winning is better than losing.
– For those who want to “defund the GOP” I’ll counter with the fact that the Republican Governor’s Association and the Republican National Committee spent a combined $11 million in support of Ken Cuccinelli. Perhaps they should have spent more or spent the money differently, but if those “establishment” organizations were defunded that money would not have been there for the TEA Party favorite.
– For those who say “the TEA Party is destroying us” I’ll remind you that many polls suggest as much as 40% of Republicans nationally call themselves TEA Party supporters. Tell me how a Republican wins anything without the TEA Party at least tacitly on our side.
– For those who say “we’ve got to get rid of those crazy religious fanatics” I’ll point out that Chris Christie won a smashing victory, in New Jersey of all places, yet holds some views the New York Times finds shocking:
The governor prevailed despite holding positions contrary to those of many New Jersey voters on several key issues, including same-sex marriage, abortion rights and the minimum wage, and despite an economic recovery that has trailed the rest of the country.
– I’ll also remind my friends on the Right that Christie, the so-called RINO, has been a pretty darn conservative Governor in a traditionally blue state.
The point is we all need each other in order to win. That’s true in New Jersey, Virginia, and yes, even here in red state Georgia. If we send any part of our coalition packing, victory becomes much harder to achieve. I’m not saying there should be no primary challenges to incumbents, nor am I saying we shouldn’t be careful about nominating another “Todd Akin,” those two things must be considered. Vigorous debate about who should lead and what issues we should put forward is always important. But those of us who want smaller, less intrusive government must work together and remember that a 70% friend is not a 30% enemy – and that winning is better than losing.