It’s time to go against the rules of punditry and double down on a prediction.
Last week, I wrote that if Virginia Republicans nominated Corey A. Stewart against incumbent Sen. Tim Kaine (D), Kaine would win handily. And in that victory, Kaine’s coattails could take out two or more members of the GOP House delegation.
That earlier prediction was based on the blowout losses the GOP suffered in the Nov. 7 election.
The race was all about Donald Trump. He lost — bigly.
The question facing Virginia Republicans is how they intend to regroup and reinvent in time for the congressional mid-term elections.
The early signs are not good.
First, John Whitbeck, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, said he has no plans to resign his post and that his record “is what it is.”
Getting shellacked for a second time in statewide races and possibly losing control of the House of Delegates is a record of futility.
Should there be no change at the RPV and its chairman and his staff remain in their posts, it’s a pretty good sign the party has every intention of adding to its post-2009 string of election-day flops.
But who runs a political party is generally of no concern to voters. They are focused on the candidates. And that’s where the real problems begin for Republicans.
Stewart managed to tap into a not-insignificant faction of the GOP base in the 2017 gubernatorial primary. That faction wanted a Trump-like fighter who would drain Richmond’s version of the swamp.
They nearly got their way: Stewart barely lost to Ed Gillespie in June.
Despite being 0-2 in GOP nominating contests, Stewart promptly declared his candidacy for Senate, promising to run a “vicious and ruthless” campaign against Kaine.
He has had the field to himself ever since. And now, with Gillespie defeated and the GOP political apparatus in tatters, there is no one — for the moment — who appears able or willing to derail Stewart’s bid.
Events of the last few days could — or, in a better world, should — change that.
In a recent Facebook live posting, Stewart came out strongly in defense of embattled Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore (R).
Stewart said the allegations of sexual misconduct and assault against Moore look “orchestrated” and are evidence that the political establishment is intent on convicting Moore of crimes that Stewart said have not been proven.
Stewart put the blame at the feet of the GOP establishment, embodied in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), saying they are after Moore because “they don’t like him” and because Moore is “loyal to Trump.”
“This is not going after Judge Moore, folks,” Stewart said. “It’s going after President Trump.”
“I am not going to cut and run from a good man like Judge Roy Moore,” Stewart said, “and neither should any of you.”
This stands in stark contrast with other Republicans who’ve cut Moore adrift, including Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who said the allegations against Moore “merit criminal prosecution.”
Sen. Cory Gardener (R-Colo.), head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said that should Moore win, the Senate should expel Moore.
Yet Stewart remains firm, telling his supporters to do the same because Moore’s enemies are their enemies, too.
Perhaps we should award a point to Stewart for consistency. He has stuck to the populist script, including its current list of enemies such as McConnell, the press and assorted Democratic “criminals, communists, crackheads, and weirdos.”
Stewart loses nothing among his fans in supporting Moore. But politics is a game of addition, and Stewart’s fans represent far less than a majority. Backing Moore subtracts those suburban voters the GOP lost so convincingly on Nov. 7.
That’s a recipe for yet another election disaster. But who among the Republican survivors of the Tuesday Night Massacre will stand up and challenge Stewart?
Until that person appears, and unless that person defeats Stewart, Kaine is a shoo-in for reelection. And Republicans are guaranteed to lose even more ground to Virginia’s ascendant Democrats.