Republican E.W. Jackson is getting trounced in the lieutenant governor’s race, while Mark Obenshain is miraculously holding on in a dead heat for attorney general.
The conventional wisdom is that the GOP “brand” is damaged. But center-right voters may be making a finer distinction. For them, it’s the shutdown-squad mentality that is toxic; it is the fear of endlessly antagonistic rhetoric and aversion to good governance that is the turnoff. And really who can blame them? Running against Washington, D.C., is a tried-and-true tactic, but the new normal for Republicans outside of deep-red jurisdictions may very well be running against the unpalatable, polarized environment in which the choice is the shutdown squad or big-government liberals. Cuccinelli doesn’t fit that mold — a triangulating Republican, if you will — and he is suffering for it.
Senate GOP candidates in 2014 should pay heed. In winnable races where Mitt Romney won in 2012, voters still may not be willing to buy into the anti-government destructiveness and inflexibility of some GOP contenders; they should be wary of going too far right even in places like Louisiana, Arkansas and North Carolina. It is in these states but most especially in purple ones like Colorado that a conservative running as a “different kind of Republican” is going to best position himself between Democratic incumbents too liberal for their constituents and the bogeyman of recalcitrant Republicans.
Fairly or not, Cuccinelli is the wrong sort of Republican in a swing state at precisely the wrong time. Other Republicans should pay close attention.