It’s Ted Cruz’s fault. Shutting down the federal government weeks before Election Day in a state thick with federal workers slowed Cuccinelli down just when he could have been closing the sale.
It’s the GOP establishment’s fault. If they had stopped poor-mouthing their own party — something they complain indignantly about when tea party activists do it — Cuccinelli could have spent all his fighting time on McAuliffe instead of on rear-guard battles.
The fact that there is at least a kernel of truth to all the explanations only guarantees that the debate will continue for a good long while — influencing decisions about candidate selection, fundraising, and tactics all through the 2014 midterm elections. Just as the federal government shutdown ended without a resolution other than to have a new budget battle in January, the Virginia results guarantee an ongoing argument over whether the party is better served by trimming its sails with a moderate message or by having the courage to fight for first principles.
“The Republican Party needs to try to find out what went wrong in Virginia,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told POLITICO. “Clearly, Obamacare was a big asset, [it] closed the race. Did the shutdown hurt? Did it have any effect at all? Did the convention nominating process?”