A Blueprint That Can’t Be Followed

The political blog “The Fix” recently named Republican Bob McDonnell’s campaign for Governor in Virginia as its “Campaign of the Year.” As you’ll see in a moment, the award says a lot about the problems ahead for Scott McInnis:

…from the start of the race, McDonnell had the message exactly right: jobs, jobs and more jobs. Everywhere he went, McDonnell talked about not only his commitment to create more jobs in the state but his plan on how to make it happen. His slogan — “Bob’s for jobs” — was a little cheesy but it undoubtedly stuck in the minds of voters whose number one priority was the health of the economy and the need to bring more jobs to the Commonwealth…

McDonnell, learning from the mistakes of past GOP nominees Mark Earley (2001) and Jerry Kilgore (2005), almost never talked about his social conservative beliefs — understanding, rightly, that it would alienate a critical segment of votes in northern Virginia and that even among his base of support there was as much interest in solving the economic crisis. [Pols emphasis]

…In winning so overwhelmingly — 59 percent to 41 percent — McDonnell helped revive the Republican party nationally but also provided aspiring GOP candidates with a campaign plan for how to win (and win big) in a swing state.

Virginia has some political similarities to Colorado in that both have relatively moderate electorates that had recently trended toward Democrats in races for U.S. Senate and Governor. McDonnell understood from the beginning that he needed to stick to an economy/jobs theme and avoid divisive social issues, particularly since he had a weird history of strange proclamations in his past.

Here in Colorado, McInnis may understand that he should avoid social issues, but he also might not have a choice given that the State GOP has clearly decided that Tea Party activists are going to be vitally important in 2010. In order to placate the Teabaggers, McInnis must pander to their interests, including taking public positions on things aside from divisive social issues. As we’ve pointed out before, opposing things like FASTER and the destructive “Dr. Evil ballot initiatives” may make the Tea Party people happy, but it doesn’t endear him to traditional GOP supporters like private construction contractors who depend on government projects to stay afloat.

McDonnell may have provided a great blueprint for McInnis to follow in his own gubernatorial campaign, but that doesn’t mean he can follow the instructions. It could be a mighty frustrating 11 months for McInnis of doing exactly what he knows he shouldn’t do.