Speaking of state Republican problems, check out the Virginia rift

Monday, September 11, 2006 at 04:37 PM

What do you call it when the state Republican Party conducts a study on how to win the upcoming elections, and the report's publication widens the rift in the party?  You call it Virginia.

According to the Washington Post:

Internal Report Reveals Good News, Bad News for Va. Republicans

By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 9, 2006; Page B07

An internal report by Virginia's Republican Party on how to stop the GOP from losing elections in the Washington suburbs suggests an improved showing among minorities and better grass-roots efforts in the fast-growing, transient region.

But the report's back-to-basics strategy does not address the deep division between suburban moderates and the party's conservative wing as Republicans head into a tightening U.S. Senate race and state and local elections next year

Several party leaders in the region say the report -- hailed as a strategy to win elections -- has widened that rift, as Northern Virginia Republicans struggle with whether to raise taxes for roads and transit.

"It's the same old anti-Northern Virginia stuff," said Rep. Vincent F. Callahan Jr. (R-Fairfax), a House leader who expects his first Democratic challenger in six years in next year's election. "They didn't give any solutions. They said the obvious."

The 65-page document, released to Northern Virginia lawmakers this summer, is the product of a "strike force" assembled by state party Chairman Kate Obenshain Griffin late last year, as GOP leaders tried to draw lessons from Jerry W. Kilgore's loss to Timothy M. Kaine (D) in the governor's race.

Kaine's victory -- and strength in traditionally Republican enclaves of Loudoun and Prince William counties -- came on the heels of Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry's 32,600-vote edge over President Bush in Fairfax County in 2004. The political realignment was reinforced by several recent General Assembly wins for Democrats, including a Republican state Senate seat that Mark R. Herring (D) took overwhelmingly in Loudoun in January.

With hopeful Democrats actively recruiting candidates to challenge GOP incumbents next year, many of those incumbents are struggling to meet their constituents' demands for investment in roads, public transit and schools. These are the issues -- rather than the party's traditional social concerns, such as abortion, gun rights and a tough stand on illegal immigration -- that resonate with suburban voters.

They represent a huge disconnect with the party's leadership in Richmond, which steadfastly rejected tax increases during a historic extended legislative session this year. The question is whether Northern Virginia Republicans will pay for that lack of investment at the polls.

Well I certainly hope that the answer is yes, they will pay for them at the polls.

It really is looking more and more like the famed Republican coalition of right wing Christians, anti-tax/anti-government conservatives, and traditional pro-business interests has begun the inevitable unraveling.  The unraveling process may not be fast, it may not be uninterrupted, but it does seem to have begun.

It us the untwisting of the first threads that undoubtedly prompted a recent piece in the Weekly Standard geared to assuaging the fears of those being unravelled.  In the piece, Marc Ambinder offers up the question "So are evangelical candidates losing their political appeal, or are religious conservatives shifting their allegiance from the GOP?," only to answer himself, "Neither, really."

But that conclusion rests on some mighty flimsy reasoning and some suspect analysis of cause and effect.  For example:

It's no surprise that as both Bush and the Republican brand become less popular, evangelicals, like virtually every other component of the conservative coalition, are asserting their independence. A Pew poll found that white evangelical Protestants are less willing to identify themselves with the Republican party than they were in 2004; Hispanic evangelicals are turning away from the party because of the stalemate over immigration.

Mega-evangelicals like Rick Warren, author of the phenomenally successful Purpose Driven Life, and Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, have openly challenged Republican corporate dogma on environmental issues and supply-side tractates on poverty. Their best hope is to change the party from within and, on those issues, build coalitions with Democrats. Warren, a talismanic example of a Religious Right pastor who has softened his approach, has met with Democrats ranging from Nancy Pelosi to John Kerry.

But there is no evidence that evangelicals are joining the Democratic party in droves or that social conservative activism is waning.

Hey, Marc: they don't have to be joining the Dems "in droves" for there to be a slow unraveling.  They just need to start dropping out of the ranks of "do whatever the Repubs say to do" zombies.

He also states:

A final misunderstanding: Some secular intellectuals believe that social issues are what drive evangelicals to the polls, or that Republicans have mastered the art of using class resentments to delude working class whites into voting against their economic interests.

But internal polling conducted for the Republican National Committee shows that evangelicals who support President Bush today are motivated principally by his administration's national security policies. Sure, the targeted political messages they'll see in late September and October will mention judicial nominations, but even more, the political ads will draw a sharp contrast with Democrats on national security.

Unless this were so, elite conservative activists in early primary states wouldn't be seen flirting with a Republican presidential bid by the former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani. Because Giuliani is the potential nominee who most closely shares their values on national security, these activists are quick to excuse or forgive his two divorces. They must believe many evangelical voters can be persuaded to do the same.

Oh that wonderful modifier "principally."  They are motivated "principally" by national security.  And the secondary motivations?

Not to mention the bizarre leap of logic that "flirtations" with Giuliani prove that national security is the primary motivation.  First of all, "flirtations" with a candidate don't mean diddly; what's going to happen when push comes to shove inside the voting booth?  Secondly, the flirtations of some may, in fact, hasten the unravelling as the flirtations irritate the hell out of the real social conservatives who won't tolerate Giuliani's views on abortion, his divorce, and on and on.

In closing this item, may I humbly suggest that the Weekly Standard, in the name of accuracy, consider renaming itself the Weakly Standard?