IF YOU'RE LOOKING for relief from all those overblown explanations of why the Democratic ticket swept Virginia so impressively, turn to your right -- far right -- and get a load of what the Sorehead Fringe of Virginia's GOP is saying about Wyatt Durrette. Start with Paul M. Weyrich, president of the Free Congress Foundation, who really knows how to kick a man when he's down. Responding to the losing candidate's effort to pay off nearly $200,000 in campaign debts, Mr. Weyrich called Mr. Durrette a "wimp" and charged that he had run an inexcusably bad race. "You wasted more money than most good campaigns spend for productive efforts," Mr. Weyrich wrote back. "You deserve neither money nor sympathy. But we who are stuck with your candidacy deserve an apology and a refund for past contributions."
That's only the pleasant part -- it goes on: "I hope it hurts you to read this, because you have hurt a lot of Republicans and conservatives by the terrible campaign you ran. And worst of all the liberals in the Republican Party are now blaming us for your loss. We weren't even involved in your campaign and that is the way you wanted it."
With that kind of support, who would want this bunch any other way than somewhere else? In a return zinger, Mr. Durrette wrote: "Your letter came as no surprise, in light of your conduct over the years, and your reputation in political circles. Conceptually and factually it is laughable. The conservative cause and the Republican Party will do quite well in the future if you could manage the same degree of involvement in both that you had in my campaign." Any more of this and the national Democratic Party might charge Virginia Republicans with petty larceny -- for stealing their Intramural Kamikaze Mudslinging Cup. Or was that dented trophy cleverly slipped to them by Gov. Robb, who knows what party moderation and unity can accomplish?
In any event, somebody might want to tell all these warring Republican leaders that they can cancel that call to the coroner: the party is not going to die from this setback. And if cooler heads take a closer look at their trashed effort of '85, they may well conclude that "conservative" versus "liberal" wasn't the fight. Mr. Weyrich's "New Right" may not have had a role in this mess, but the "Old Right" of former Democrats -- with ties to the days and ways Virginia is trying to forget -- was in there all the way, overshadowing a more moderate camp that some had hoped in vain would be Mr. Durrette's inspiration and strength.
A look at the chief campaign issues shows that the philosophical road to statewide victory in Virginia is still a middle lane with a ravine on the left and a soft shoulder to the right. That leaves plenty of running room for forward-looking Republicans to select tickets with more proven talent and broader appeal than this year's. If that is what Republicans decide to do, they might well look to Mr. Durrette -- a thoughtful man who could have used more of this kind of help and less of what he got. He might well contribute much first-hand insight and experience to such an effort.