The most alarming message for Democrats from Tuesday's elections was the near obliteration of Terry McAuliffe's lead over Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia. An October poll, conducted a week after the government reopened, had placed him 11 points ahead. On Election Day, Cuccinelli lost by only 2.5 points. McAuliffe's precipitous tumble was caused entirely by Obamacare.
There was bad news for Republicans, as well. The government shutdown damaged Cuccinelli, possibly costing him the race. But there were other factors; the money gap (he was outspent 3 to 1), outgoing Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell's ethics troubles and Cuccinelli's dour mien all made it possible for a gasbag Democratic moneyman who admitted that he didn't read legislation and would hire someone to handle such trivia to take Thomas Jefferson's seat in Richmond.
Yet in Virginia's 34th District, just outside Washington, a very conservative delegate was able to run between 8 and 18 points ahead of Cuccinelli and win. And that was a district that went for Tim Kaine for senator and Barack Obama just a year ago.
Barbara Comstock is as conservative as any right-winger could desire -- pro-free enterprise, pro-life and pro-Second Amendment. Her opponent, Kathleen Murphy, a doctrinaire liberal, was supported by the unions, Michael Bloomberg, NARAL and Planned Parenthood.
If conservatives want to win elections and not just preen about their ideological purity, they should study Comstock.
How can conservatives cope with the "women's issues" that are handing Democrats huge percentages of the female vote? Comstock is not furtive about her opposition to abortion. At a debate the week before the election, she spoke affectionately of her son-in-law's birth mother and of her "courageous and loving" decision to place him for adoption. She also took a page from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's book and endorsed making birth control pills available over the counter as the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends. It's hard to paint her as someone who wants to keep women barefoot and pregnant when she advocates making birth control pills easier to obtain. Her opponent opposed this.
Comstock fought back aggressively when Murphy accused her of opposing funds for cancer screening. (This smear was used against a number of Virginia Republicans this year.) Comstock pointed out that Murphy was referring to a Democratic legislative effort to pull cancer screening funds from the health department and turn them over to Planned Parenthood.
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