Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday after being elected governor of Virginia. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post) Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday after being elected governor of Virginia. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

A lot of liberals in the mainstream media had their stories about the outcome of the Virginia gubernatorial race written well before the election results were in. Everyone was poised to say that the extremist Republicans received a brutal thumping in Virginia, and that hopefully they had learned their lesson. Well, perhaps some editing was in order after the results were known. Ken Cuccinelli, who was admittedly a very weak candidate for Republicans, lost to Terry McAuliffe by only 2.5 percent. And, oh by the way, there was a third-party candidate on the ballot who got 6.55 percent  – or 145,560 votes. It’s plausible that Cuccinelli would have won if not for Robert Sarvis’s candidacy. It was certainly never a secret that the Democrats were very happy there was a libertarian on the ballot.

Instead of bowing to the standard liberal talking points that Republicans are too extreme to win elections in purple states, it’s prudent to take a more objective view of the outcome in Virginia.

Yesterday’s results say at least as much about the weakness of the Democratic message and its lack of appeal to independent voters as it does about any Republican weaknesses. According to CNN exit polling, independents voted for Cuccinelli over McAuliffe, 47-38 percent. That’s remarkable, given that the mainstream media insist the Republican brand is damaged almost beyond repair among independents.

It certainly wasn’t Terry McAuliffe’s enlightened moderation that won the day for Democrats in Virginia. Give me a break.  McAuliffe outspent Ken Cuccinelli 10-1 in the final days before the campaign, and not with an inclusive “hope and change” message. Instead, McAuliffe followed the Democratic playbook and did a brutal hatchet job on Cuccinelli, running ads that featured wild accusations and cartoonishly ghoulish pictures of the Attorney General.

If the polling was accurate — with McAuliffe ahead in virtually every single poll since July and leading by a wide margin in the week before the election — it’s clear that President Obama’s appearance at Sunday’s rally actually hurt the McAuliffe campaign.

As Republicans, we have our problems, but we are not in as much trouble at the ballot box as Democrats and the mainstream media would have you believe. And if Virginia is any indication of what’s to come, President Obama is going to have a pretty lonely campaign season in 2014. Look for the president to do a lot more closed-door fundraisers and fewer and fewer public campaign rallies.

 

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Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.