While Northern Virginia's Republican moderates lick their wounds after the severe beating they took in last week's primaries for the General Assembly and local offices, the ones that gave it to them, the GOP conservatives, are eagerly anticipating the fall general elections.
And from where the conservatives stand right now it looks pretty good because five of six conservative-backed candidates sailed to victory last week, with at least two of those triumphs considered upsets.
A recap of the Republican primaries shows:
* Conservative Elaine N. McConnell was an upset winner over moderate incumbent Marie B. Travesky in the Springfield supervisor's race.
* Conserative Stephen A. Armstrong, a former Democrat, was a surprising winner over moderate John D. Austin, a longtime Republican, in the Providence supervisor's contest.
* Conservative Gwendalyn F. Cody defeated moderate Lynne E. Purvis in the Virginia House 38th District race.
* Conservative Lonnie B. Bridges defeated moderate Daniel K. Moller in Virginia's 33rd Senate District primary.
* Conservative-backed John W. Russell triumphed in a three-way contest for the 34th Virginia Senate District nomination.
The only conservative-backed candidate to fall by the wayside was Bruce L. Green, who lost his bid for the GOP nomination to the 42nd District Virginia House seat to moderate Robert K. Cunningham in a contest among four candidates.
"The results were just great--five out of six," said conservative Republican John S. Buckley, a political consultant, former state delegate and cousin of columnist William F. Buckley.
He said the common thread through the victories was that, "in all five of those cases, we could identify them as pro-life. Green's views were a little mixed. If we could have said 'He's the pro-life vote,' it could have given him the 100 votes he needed." Furthermore, he said the victories reflect the fact "the Republican Party is basically a conservative party."
Moderate Republicans, however, see things differently.
"An underlying theme in all these primaries is that Republicans who come out to vote tend to be more conservative," said a Republican official who asked not to be identified. "It's the same thing with the Democrats and liberals. There is a stronger identification. People are not going to stop their gardening to go out and vote for a moderate."
Unsuccessful moderate candidate Austin said that in his Providence race the conservatives "got out the hard-core vote, which they can turn out almost anytime." He said that the night before the election, the phone calls went out proclaiming Armstrong to be "pro-life." Austin said the calls upset him because he was never asked his views on abortion. Besides, he said, supervisors never deal with the abortion issue.
Such get-out-the-vote efforts can mean life-or-death in races where candidates can receive less than 1,000 votes and still win. One Republican compared the activities of the antiabortion forces to those of politically active unions.
"They provide money and organization and troops," he said, while moderates just can't seem to match their organization.
In the Travesky-McConnell contest, the conservatives, who have otherwise been delighted to claim credit for the conservative tide, say Travesky was primarily responsible for her own defeat.
"Marie can claim she was booted out by the crazies in the New Right," Buckley said. "The fact is she had a poor record and brought a lot on herself."
One Republican said that what did Travesky in was her position on such issues as the Coventry public housing project, the Springfield Bypass and traffic problems and her general style, which some say was cold or abrasive.
Meanwhile, Travesky's downfall has enhanced Republican County Board Chairman Jack Herrity's reputation as the power broker in Springfield, despite his own denial of any wheeling or dealing in that primary.
"Jack's role in the Springfield race was that he identified the problems in the district and he exploited them on the board," said a county Republican. "He was in constant communication with the citizens of Springfield, and he made sure that all the negatives about Marie were known. . . . He played off of every mistake she made."
In the Cody-Purvis race, while the issues were more clearly ideological and focused mainly on abortion, some Republicans say Cody's winning margin may well have been as much the result of her name recognition from running several previous times as it was a mandate on abortion.
And, while conservatives did back Russell, probably more central to the Fairfax City mayor's victory was his strong base in the city, where he racked up more than 600 votes. That was enough for him to beat E. Joseph West, who won in the Fairfax County portion of the district.
Moderate Republicans are, nevertheless, saying that while they may have lost this battle, they have not lost the war.
"In politics, the pendulum swings back and forth," Austin said. The Democrats "went too far with George McGovern" and when the voters rejected him, they headed back toward the center.
Is the pendulum still swinging to the right or is it on its way back to the center?
"We'll find out in November," Austin said.