RWL: McDonnell and Kilgorism

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See, over the last few years, I have seen annual attempts to “unite the Republican Party in Virginia.” They have all been followed by the same things: issue-less campaigns, lost leads, surprising (to some) defeats, recriminations, and grudges that go so deep into the next election cycle that the same people try to “bring the party together” and start the cycle all over again.

The first and most obvious of these fiascos came in 2005, when Jerry Kilgore led the state GOP ticket. The party had just been through a vicious policy battle over taxes – one which became a political battle as several tax-hiking GOP Delegates faces primary challenges. Kilgore had a choice: accept the division as a reality and pick sides, or make broad and bland “unity” statements that papered over the serious differences.

Kilgore chose the latter, and ended up with a lower percentage of the vote than any GOP nominee for Governor had earned in twenty years.

No question, the Kilgore campaign the RNC’s mishandling of the Kilgore campaign was atrocious. RNC staffers swooping in, taking over and pushing out traditional volunteers and unit organizations… much of which instigates the catcalls about RPV to this day (hint: RPV isn’t RNC, but I’ve groussed about this in the past).

Of course, 2009 is much different than 2005… no looming billion-dollar tax hike (passed under Republican eyes), Virginia Senate Republicans brought back to the realm of common sense, no future prospects for President in 2008.

Then there’s one major difference we all seem to neglect: Bob McDonnell is no Jerry Kilgore. As the McDonnell campaign begins to swing into gear, we’ll see some major initiatives that will be red meat for both fiscal and social conservatives.

Even “classical liberals” such as Mr. McGuire will be impressed. Time will tell the tale.

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