More than a few liberal commentators will celebrate the supposed “shellacking” that the Republicans got in the elections on Tuesday. And, certainly, on two major issues–government union power (in Ohio) and abortion (in Mississippi)–the voters sided with the political Left.
But, in one of the “purple” states that President Obama will probably need to carry to be elected, Virginia, voters handed the state Senate to Republicans.
(Even if a still outstanding election gets decided in favor of Democrats, Republicans will still control the Senate with the Lieutenant Governor breaking ties.)
Obviously, a lot of things differed from state to state and pundits will parse the differences at great length. But one thing stands out: Virginia Republicans, unlike those in Ohio and Mississippi, focused on bread and butter governance issues rather than hot button issues that please the base.
Take the man at the top, Governor Bob McDonnell, as an example. While he passes every conservative litmus test, he also has a lot of time on the nitty gritty of governing. He has continued big-ticket infrastructure projects around the state that his two Democratic predecessors championed, seen unemployment fall on his watch, worked to improve college savings plans, set the stage for several more major infrastructure projects, balanced the budget without using any major gimmicks (yeah, he underfunded pensions), and maintained the state’s AAA bond rating.
Even things that seemed like pipedreams—tolling federally built interstates to get more money for infrastructure investment—have come to pass under his administration.
Not everything he wants has become law—a plan to sell off state-owned liquor stores stalled—but even these plans were, at least, genuine efforts to confront the state’s problems. This ability to actually govern certainly helped Republican candidates all over the state. And it offers a good model for conservatives who actually want to win elections.