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If, as expected, tea party-favorite Ken Cuccinelli goes down in a governor’s race in Virginia where he was once expected to easily win over flawed Democrat Terry McAuliffe, the party of the elephant will intensify its inward look at what is gutting them from within and alienating voters in droves.
The finger-pointing has already begun as the GOP braces itself for a bitter defeat in a key swing state where Republicans have controlled the governor’s mansion and the general assembly with ease over the past four years.
“It’s not supposed to be this way right now,” longtime GOP strategist Gary Atkins tells Capitol Hill Blue.
In Virginia, longtime GOP donors and supporters have walked away from Cuccinelli, a hard-core conservative who marched to the regressive beat of the tea party. Polls showed an increasing number of Republicans viewing Cuccineli as a prime example of the extremism that now defines the party.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent $973,000 four years ago promoting the campaign of Republican candidate Bob McDonnell, did nothing for Cuccinelli this year. At last count, 27 of the 43 donors who gave $50,000 or more to McDonnell gave nothing to Cuccinelli.
“He didn’t get the money,” says Virginia political strategist Bob Holsworth.
As Attorney General, Cuccinelli drew headlines with a string of high-profile, often incendiary, ultra-ideological stances that included telling state universities to ignore racial equality regulations, using the state’s outdated anti-Sodomy laws to go after gays and questionable enforcement of laws with racial overtones.
A string of scandals that engulfed both Cuccinelli and current Republican governor McDonnell, including involvement with scandal-scarred Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams and failure to report lavish gifts from him, didn’t help either.
Some big-time GOP donors donated to McAuliffe. Others sat out the race.
Some saw the handwriting on the wall earlier when voters rejected a return to the Senate by Republican racist George Allen and elected former Democratic governor Tim Kaine to join fellow Democrat Mark Warner in the Senate.
Some Republicans hope a resounding defeat of Cuccinelli will drive the tea party out of the GOP. Many feel the party needs more moderates like Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey.
Virginia, they say, will serve as a textbook example of what happens when the party kowtows to the right wing and the very real question of electability. Cuccinelli angered many Republicans this year when he engineered a change in party rules to assure he got the nomination over more moderate and current Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and those rules also allowed hard-core conservatives to bring in E.W. Jackson, a rabid right-wing ideologue, as the new candidate for lieutenant governor.
Jackson trails Democratic candidate Ralph Northam by a large margin.
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