Thursday, December 17, 2009

There's no way campaigns matter that much

Via ColoradoPols, The Fix has named Republican Bob McDonnell's Virginia gubernatorial campaign as the Campaign of the Year. Why? Focusing on the economy and ignoring social issues:
From the start of the race, McDonnell had the message exactly right: jobs, jobs and more jobs. Everywhere he went, McDonnell talked about not only his commitment to create more jobs in the state but his plan on how to make it happen. His slogan -- "Bob's for jobs" -- was a little cheesy but it undoubtedly stuck in the minds of voters whose number one priority was the health of the economy and the need to bring more jobs to the Commonwealth...

McDonnell, learning from the mistakes of past GOP nominees Mark Earley (2001) and Jerry Kilgore (2005), almost never talked about his social conservative beliefs -- understanding, rightly, that it would alienate a critical segment of votes in northern Virginia and that even among his base of support there was as much interest in solving the economic crisis....
In winning so overwhelmingly -- 59 percent to 41 percent -- McDonnell helped revive the Republican party nationally but also provided aspiring GOP candidates with a campaign plan for how to win (and win big) in a swing state.
So the earlier GOP nominees lost because they focused on social issues, but McDonnell's emphasis on the economy turned a likely loss into an 18-point victory? Baloney. Isn't it more likely that that McDonnell focused on the economy because the overwhelming majority of Virginia voters were already focused on that issue, and it would be stupid to take prominent stances on issues that people aren't voting on? And doesn't it make more sense that voters would turn out the incumbent party's governor in a year when the economy has taken a nosedive?

McDonnell may well have run a tight, disciplined campaign, but his focus on jobs-jobs-jobs won't serve as much of a blueprint for years when voters actually care about other issues.

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