November 12, 2007 [LINK / comment]

"New blood" for Virginia GOP?

Today's Washington Post sought out the opinions of various Republican leaders in Virginia about what to make of the recent electoral defeats. Not surprisingly, there are sharp differences of opinion. Among them was our own Chris Saxman, who sounded an upbeat note about the party's future prospects:

"A lot of activists say we need new blood. We need someone else to carry the message," said Del. Christopher B. Saxman (R-Staunton), who some analysts say is a possible future statewide candidate.

Well, I would certainly agree that it is time to look to leaders other than Jim Gilmore and George Allen. But even with new leaders, if the "new wine" is sold to the voters in the stale old "bottles" of lame cliches about "values" that serve as divisive wedge issues, it won't do much good as far as attracting moderate voters. That is the sine qua non of electoral success.

In contrast to Saxman, Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart said "I think the state Republican Party is in shambles and frankly deserves to be." Stewart, a leader of the crackdown on illegal immigration, was just elected to his first full term. Based on what I've observed, I would tend to agree with Stewart. He called attention to the refusal of the right-leaning Republicans in the House of Delegates to provide major state funds for suburban transportation projects as a primary cause of the GOP defeat. That was one of the relatively few issues where I sided with that GOP faction (see March 1), and in retrospect, I may have erred -- in strictly political terms, at least. (I still think such funding was wrong in principle.)

An outsider's perspective on what ails the Virginia Republican Party was provided by Post columnist Marc Fisher, who thinks that the GOP will self-destruct unless it addresses the serious problems of suburban sprawl and other issues of concern to moderates. (He forgets that loose immigration enforcement and rising state subsidies for highways are two of the main factors that drive sprawl in the first place!) He quotes outgoing State Senator Russ Potts, the "RINO's RINO."

This is a change in the face of Virginia politics for the next 20 years. This business of no-tax pledges and no-abortions, no-exceptions is not going to fly. The party desperately needs to widen the circle.

Indeed. It's just too bad that he didn't resist the party's rightward lurch in a more effective, prudent way during his last years in the state senate. Grabbing headlines is not the best way to persuade colleagues to see the light of day.