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GOP 2011 State Senate Races in Virginia Too Much Money, Not Enough Message

In a hard fought campaign for the Virginia State Senate with 27 challengers, it would stand to reason that that the GOP would have won more than 2 seats (as of this writing, it looks like Republican Bryce Reeves will win against Democrat Edd Houck, but the race is still too close to call).  Last night showed that the Republican Party still has not learned the lessons about how to fight entrenched Democrats, and nor learned how to use effectively multiple channels and coalitions to communicate its message.

Screen_shot_Obama_Dem_videoThis was an election where a Presidential campaign bus tour was unwelcomed by every Democrat in a competitive race. Tea Party pressure caused a number of incumbent Democratic State Senators to publicly throw Obama under the bus. The Republican Party of Virginia failed to seize a critical opportunity to translate President Obama’s unpopularity into a large gain of State Senate seats.

Polling sponsored by the Virginia Tea Party Alliance (VATPA) showed a clear path to victory- nationalize each state senate race and link the Democratic Party candidate to President Obama and his agenda. The counter to Obama was not the Governor McDonnell, but to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who energizes conservative voters more that the Governor. Governor McDonnell is a popular governor, but voters could not identify specifics about his agenda, and therefore he was not a factor in mobilizing people to vote.

The VATPA polling also showed that overall, Virginians are satisfied with their state government, but highly dissatisfied with national policies and very dissatisfied with President Obama. Voters did not see the Governor’s agenda as being “blocked”. Several Democratic Party candidates’ effectively demonstrated cooperation with some key initiatives of the Governor like his transportation bill. The voting results reinforced the tea party poll - most voters saw no reason to change the status quo.

Overkill money alone doesn’t work. The Republican Party of Virginia spend a great deal of money on the wrong message and a weak message, they also wasted literally millions of dollars on TV ads and expensive mailings in July, August, September and even in early October. These ads focused on the personality of the candidate, not on the issues or ideas that motivate voters. This money could have been better spent much more effectively building grassroots support early, with a solid message and vision. In short, the Republican Party of Virginia failed to create a compelling reason for voters to switch from the “devil they know” to the “devil they don’t know”.

Virginia’s conservative voters had a chance to vote against the President and his policies in 2011 by ousting Virginia Senate Democrats. There was an opportunity to show that the Republican gains in 2009 and 2010 could be expanded, and that Virginia was now solidly conservative, no longer a battleground

state.  The Republican Party needs to work on its message. It needs to be willing to be bold, and stop playing it “safe”. It must abandon the “personality politics” of the 1990’s and embrace the issue and vision campaigns that win. That’s the best get out the vote plan we can have.

The Virginia House of Delegates increased its majority and ousted Democrats Ward Armstrong and Bill Barlow with strong conservative candidates supported by the tea party.   Interestingly, in several local races across the Commonwealth, strong tea party incumbents kept their seats and new tea party candidates successfully flipped seats.

"Elections have consequences" – Barack Obama

Virginia Tea Party Alliance
Mailing: 5020 Ferrell Pkwy, Ste. 205, PMB110, Virginia Beach, VA 23464 Voice mail: 757-695-8590
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