Chris Graham: Did the GOP blow the Virginia election? Let me count the ways

Terry McAuliffe outspent his Republican gubernatorial opponent by more than $17 million, and won the election by two and a half points.

republican-headerSo, yeah, this one was the Virginia GOP’s race to win. Don’t let them sell you now on the idea that they pulled off some miracle in just losing by 55,000 votes after being down by double digits in the polls last week.

Oh, no. They blew this one. Let’s count the ways.

Nominating Ken Cuccinelli in the first place. Cuccinelli was not far off in the last candidate debate when he said McAuliffe was all platitudes, no substance. There was no substance to the McAuliffe campaign. Because the McAuliffe campaign took on the Napoleonic maxim that you never interfere with the enemy when he’s in the process of destroying himself. McAuliffe was the moderate matador, Cuccinelli the Tea Party’s charging bull. This bullfight ended the way most do. But put Bill Bolling up against McAuliffe, and Bolling exposes McAuliffe’s lack of substance, and is governor-elect tonight, and by a large margin.

Shutdown slowdown. The polls had this race tight as a tick up until Oct. 1. What was it that happened on that date that might have turned things in the other direction? Hmmm, let’s see. Oh, yes, that’s it, the Republican shutdown. Sixteen days wherein McAuliffe took what was a two- to three-point lead and made it double-digits. The debacle that has been the HealthCare.gov rollout was clearly eating into the margins in the race’s closing days, but just imagine if the attention from Oct. 1 on was on the botched website rollout. It’s not hard to make the case that Cuccinelli wins this one by more than the margin that he lost by if that had been how things had gone.

Money for nuthin’. Cuccinelli, according to an unnamed GOP operative quoted in a Huffington Post article published on Monday, didn’t exactly hit the fundraising trail all that hard, exuding instead a sense of “entitlement” after becoming the GOP nominee. What happened as a result? Cuccinelli, cash poor as he was, was outspent nearly six-to-one in the last week of the campaign, to a point where you had to avoid watching anything on TV to not see a McAuliffe commercial reminding you of the dangers of a Cuccinelli Virginia, with barely a peep in response from the Cuccinelli side. This in a race that came down to 55,000 votes statewide. Yikes.

E.W. Jackson. Cuccinelli didn’t lose because of Jackson, but what in the sam hill was that guy doing on the state ticket of a major party? E.W. Jackson might not have hurt Cuccinelli, but he sure as heck didn’t help.

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