November 14, 2007 [LINK / comment]

"RINO" alert: Rob Wittman

From a quick (and long-overdue) scan of the Virginia blogosphere, I must say, the reaction to the recent elections does not bode well for rebuilding unity in the Republican Party. "RINO" this, "RINO" that. Enough with the sour faces and grade-school name-calling, already!

In particular, the nomination of (moderate) Del. Rob Wittman in the First Congressional District (the seat held by the late Joann Davis) has provoked unseemly outrage among "The Base." D.J. Maguire lamented "I cannot describe what a colossal mistake my fellow convention delegates made." Personally, I don't have the foggiest idea who is who in that district, but I do agree wholeheartedly with the commenter who wrote, "Republicans fail because we eat our own!"

Leslie Carbone had a similar take on Wittman, ruefully recalling the nomination of Gerald Ford over Ronald Reagan in 1976: "GOODBYE REPUBLICANS. YOU PICKED THE WRONG MAN." Maybe yes, maybe no. Given the low prestige of the GOP after Nixon and Watergate, it's entirely possible that Reagan would have lost to Jimmy Carter that year, making it very difficult for Reagan to get nominated in 1980. That would have changed the course of history -- in the wrong direction! As for Carbone's generalization that "conservative Republicans beat Democratics [sic], but Democratics [sic] beat RINOs," I would need to see a lot more than anecdotal evidence. Her contention was certainly not borne out by last week's landslide victory of State Senator Emmett Hanger, whom she once called "a liberal."

J.R. Hoeft had a milder, more rational reaction to the nomination, merely noting that Wittman will have to build some bridges within the party. To me, the Wittman episode illustrates once again the severe handicap that ideologues (right or left) have in trying to do objective analyses of electoral prospects and outcomes.