A 2014 U.S. Senate Run for Ken Cuccinelli?
Virginia Republicans may have a strong candidate for the 2014 US Senate seat in Ken Cuccinelli. As reported in the Daily Caller, conservative writer and Congressional candidate Quin Hillyer gives voice to a movement to draft Ken to run against incumbent Democrat U.S. Senator Mark Warner.
Yet it would be a problem for the 2013 campaigner Ken Cuccinelli to run for U.S. Senate, from what we saw in Ken's unsuccessful campaign for governor. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Ken Cuccinelli as a potential senator. Yet Ken will fail badly unless he fires his 2013 campaign strategists, consultants, and leaders, and adopts a new strategy.
Note that no Republican is currently running who has ever held elected office before. That is why Ken Cuccinelli is such an interesting possibility. Many leaders are enthusiastic about either Howie Lind or Shak Hill. Yet in enormous and highly political Virginia, no Republican either well-known or experienced is even hinting at running. I have been talking up Ollie North or Gary Bauer, teasing Jim Martin about running, and hoping for Jamie Radtke, Bob Marshall, or George Allen. Maybe E.W. Jackson will run. Apparently Newt Gingrich has said no.
First, campaigning like Mitt Romney was the fundamental defect with Ken Cuccinelli as candidate for governor. This was in sharp contrast to Ken Cuccinelli, 2009 candidate for Attorney General or Ken Cuccinelli 2002 candidate for Virginia State Senate. The 2013 Cuccinelli was a paralyzed, programmed, brainwashed victim of campaign consultants. The man I went to law school with was not the man who showed up in the governor's race.
Second, and most important, Ronald Reagan did one thing that Ken Cuccinelli, Mitt Romney, and other Republicans fail to do these days. Ronald Reagan explained. The Gipper went over the heads of the media and the political class and spoke directly to the American people. But it worked because Reagan had a message worth delivering. Reagan was able to move the public not because he talked, but because of what he actually said. Today, conservatives do want to fight and take it to the people. But they also have to be very persuasive.
Instead of treating voters like dummies or statistics in pie charts, Reagan talked to the owners of the country like real people. It was easy. That's how Ronald Reagan truly felt about his countrymen. He talked to the American people like his neighbors. If onlyGOP campaign consultants could just figure out how to fake that kind of heartfelt sincerity. Reagan understood the people he was talking to, from real life experience, not from consultants analyzing voter blocs for him.
Third, many argue that Republicans should nominate moderates like Chris Christie. But they always say that. No matter what happens, their advice to lurch Left never changes.
In 2012, Virginia Republicans nominated the establishment choice for U.S. Senate, George Allen, instead of tea party leader Jamie Radkte. But the establishment choice George Allen lost by 224,525 votes statewide compared to Ken Cuccinelli's 55,100 vote loss in 2013 statewide. The 2012 race demolishes the theory that in 2013 Republicans ran a candidate too conservative. Nominating a moderate in Virginia didn't work in 2012.
Fourth, Democrats ran a fake Libertarian, Robert Sarvis, to siphon off Republican votes. Only 24 hours before the election, Meredith Jessup at the Blaze revealed that an Obama campaign donation "bundler" -- Texas billionaire Joe Liemandt -- paid $150,000 for the petition drive that put Sarvis on the ballot. Ron Paul repudiated Sarvis for not espousing libertarian positions and campaigned for Cuccinelli.
Yet Cuccinelli's campaign wasn't awake enough to discover this dirty trick months earlier. Breaking that story six months ago might have changed the election. But the story broke only on Monday morning, November 5. The $150,000 donation was in January 2013. A competent campaign would have researched Sarvis' single largest campaign contributor. Sarvis took 145,638 votes (6.52%), while Ken lost by only 55,100 votes. But worse, for months Sarvis made Cuccinelli appear hopeless in opinion polls when Sarvis was polling at 10 percent. That scared away donors, volunteers, editorial support, and party assistance.
Fifth, in a 2014 U.S. Senate race, the same liberal lies about a war on women would once again clobber Ken. Ken's failure to respond persuasively to these smears was his biggest "Mitt Romney-esque" mistake. So unless a different campaign team runs his U.S. Senate campaign, Mark Warner would easily win. Quin Hillyer argues that those lies wouldn't work a second time. Oh, sure they would.
Ken should have listened to Virginia Republican women leaders like Gerarda Culipher, who ran for State Senate against a tough incumbent Democrat. More than a year ago, Republican women were warning the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) to prepare for these gender lies.
Leading Virginia Republican women were trying to explain how women voters perceive things differently and were trying to alert the RPV to the obvious and inevitable gender attacks that were coming. They discussed how Ken would be perceived by women, as a result of liberal smears, and why responses proposed by men wouldn't work. To my mind as a man, instead of flat-out calling Terry McAuliffe's attacks lies, Cuccinelli changed the subject to examples like fighting against sex trafficking. To me that sounds like "Sure I cheated on you, but look I repainted the garage."
Yet in Republican Party politics, only consultants who consistently lose elections, have no ideas, and no clue get hired and listened to. Those with real answers end up talking to a brick wall. Relying on tired, old, and failed campaign strategists with all the wrong ideas is a dominant feature of the Republican Party nationwide. Cuccinelli should have listened to Virginia conservative godfather Morton Blackwell's warning about consultants.
Sixth, it's the wrong question "Should Ken Cuccinelli run for U.S. Senate?" The question is "How would Ken go about running?" Only after you consider what Ken would do differently next time, can you begin to answer the question "If" yes or no.
Incredibly, for example, the same is true in Delaware. Apparently no Republican is running for U.S. Senate in 2014. Christine O'Donnell's father just died November 3 after a long illness with Christine taking a year out to attend to both her father and also her mother battling cancer. So should Christine run in 2014? That's the wrong question! The right question is what are all the hundreds of actions one should take to get from here to there. Similar to one of Jesus' parables, conservatives need to plan out how they would win, in careful detail, and plan how to get a different result next time, before deciding whether to run.
Unfortunately, even very smart people like Ken Cuccinelli can do dumb things if they refuse to learn from mistakes. Those who do not learn from their personal experiences -- even extremely smart attornies general -- are doomed to keep getting kicked over and over, to have many bad experiences from which they will not learn. (Apologies to George Santayana.) If my law school classmate Ken Cuccinelli does not learn what to do differently in 2014, then the Republican Party of Virginia would be better off with a less-famous but equally strong conservative like Bob Marshall.