WASHINGTON, June 7, 2014 In 1975, in a speech to CPAC, Ronald Reagan told the attendees, “Our people look for a cause to believe in. Is it a third party we need, or is it a new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people”.
Republicans, if the Party is to survive, need to raise the banner of bold colors. Unfortunately in Virginia today, all they got were pale pastels.
In the state convention of the Republican Party of Virginia, Ed Gillespie won the Republican nomination for the United States Senate.
Gillespie spoke to the convention delegates and instead of offering a banner of bold colors, he offered a very generic, pale pastel. He offered no real specifics to the Republicans gathered in Roanoke for the convention. He kept his speech safe.
That is the problem. Republicans want to play it safe.
Ed Gillespie is the quintessential Washington insider. He’s been the Chairman of the Republican National Convention and he was an advisor to the Bush Administration.
Many conservatives fear Gillespie will be nothing more than an establishment hack in Washington. They fear he will act like so many other RINO Senators.
Gillespie, to his credit, did not run the kind of scorched earth campaign that Eric Cantor is running. Conservatives have no reason to hate him the way Cantor has given them good cause to fight.
Gillespie will have little problem uniting the Republican Party.
That isn’t the problem.
The problem is named Mark Warner.
Warner is the Democrat incumbent Senator. He is a former governor who polls well in Virginia. All of the polls have Warner up by a minimum of 14 points. All but one of them has Warner over 50%. That is a tough fight under any circumstances.
Gillespie’s challenger for the Republican nomination was Shak Hill, a former Air Force pilot. Hill was not per se a Tea Party candidate but he definitely ran significantly to the right of Gillespie.
Hill is not known as a great speaker but at the convention, he gave a stem winding speech that brought the delegates to their feet.
Hill would have been an interesting choice for the GOP. Hill did not have the money nor did he have the organization that Gillespie brought to bear to win the nomination. But Hill was and would have been willing to take chances.
Gillespie is going to run the kind of content free campaign that Republican consultants tell their candidates to run. Gillespie is going to give lip service to repealing Obamacare, cutting spending and taxes as well as the obligatory attacks on Barack Obama.
What Gillespie won’t do is run an aggressive campaign.
By not running an aggressive campaign, Gillespie puts his fate in someone else’s hands. By running the patented Republican content free campaign, Gillespie’s only hopes are that either Warner makes a mistake or the atmosphere in the nation turns so toxic that Warner’s approval rating slides along with other Democrats.
There are two cardinal rules in politics. First define your opponent and don’t let him (or her) define you. The second is never put your fate in someone else’s hands.
Gillespie is well enough known in Virginia it may be hard for Warner to define him. But Gillespie is putting his fate in someone else’s hands.
Unless he changes and starts to run a very aggressive campaign, Virginia will remain a Senate seat the Democrats are likely to hold on to.