Jonathan Martin's Politico piece has a clear objective. I know you'll be shocked by it: paint Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as a right-wing freak and Republicans as bemoaning their party's demise. The very title says it all: "Cuccinelli Embodies GOP's Woes." Martin doesn't even make a pretense of objectivity; he describes Cuccinelli as "defiant," "hard charging," "blunt," "cold blooded" (supposedly quoting Cuccinelli's self-description), and a "polarizing culture warrior." He claims unidentified "Republicans" are "puzzled" by Cuccinelli's approach, "worried" and "recoiling" about their presumptive candidate, seeing their party becoming "more and more rabid." And the party itself, according to Martin, is in outright despair, displaying "all the optimism they can summon."
The long-knives are out.
After Obama took Virginia in two consecutive presidential cycles, running against moderate (to put it mildly), establishment candidates, Martin insists Republicans are "clamoring for kinder and gentler candidates." The only ones clamoring for kinder and gentler are those ecstatic over Obama's victory over the kinder and gentler McCain and Romney, and the victory of Obama.
Here's the real story of what Republicans in Virginia are thinking--at least many of the activists who have been let down by too many establishment candidates afraid to invoke the ire of the media by expressing conservative principles: They know that Ken Cuccinelli, an unabashed, appealing conservative running "to strengthen our economy [and] preserve our liberty," knows how to win. They know he has studied the issues (and the Constitution), knows what he believes, knows how to articulate his philosophy in a convincing manner, and isn't afraid to do so. He knows how to run and win in Northern Virginia--not a conservative Republican-friendly region. There's no hand-wringing going on in the base. In fact, the base is pumped. And Politico knows it.
There's a lot about the Republican Party that needs serious reevaluation and work. That, I will save for a post in the near future. But I'll give Virginia Party Chair Pat Mullins kudos for this statement--one Jonathan Martin derides: “Virginia’s a conservative state, and when we stick up for our beliefs, and our values, and our principles … we win elections. When we choose to run like Democrats, we lose elections because we haven’t given anybody a choice.”
Republicans have to run smarter, more effective campaigns aimed at identifying their likely voters, and reach out to constituencies among whom they are getting their clocks cleaned. They can do all this while championing the "freedom message" that should appeal to all Virginians, and all Americans. No one is better at that message right now than Cuccinelli.
But look out. The long knives are out. In Ken Cuccinelli, the media have found their target for the next ten months. Politico has no trouble abandoning real reporting in favor of the distortion and vilification so evident in Martin's article. Cuccinelli might be their target, but they're making a big mistake to think he'll be their easy victim.