Virginia Tea Leaves Reveal Tea Party Threat to North Carolina Republicans in 2014 Races

by johndavis, November 14, 2013

Virginia Tea Leaves Reveal Tea Party Threat to North Carolina Republicans in 2014 Races November 14, 2013        Vol. VI, No. 22          11:13 am In 1999, I was invited to speak in Richmond, Virginia to the historic first joint caucus meeting of the newly elected Republican majorities in the state Senate and House of Delegates.  It
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Virginia Tea Leaves Reveal Tea Party Threat to North Carolina Republicans in 2014 Races

November 14, 2013        Vol. VI, No. 22          11:13 am

In 1999, I was invited to speak in Richmond, Virginia to the historic first joint caucus meeting of the newly elected Republican majorities in the state Senate and House of Delegates.  It was the first Republican majority in the state Senate in Virginia history, which dates back to 1619 when the House of Burgesses was established in Jamestown. 

Why was I, a North Carolinian, invited to speak on such an auspicious occasion? Because one year earlier, 1998, Republicans in the North Carolina House lost their majority after only four years; the only Republican legislative majority in North Carolina in the 20th Century.  Virginia Republicans wanted to know why so they could avoid the same fate. 

I didn’t say a word during the opening of my presentation, which consisted of about two dozen newspaper articles displayed by an overhead projector.  I put the articles up on the screen one at a time and stood silent as they read the headlines and lead paragraphs.  “Rep. Nichols says Speaker Brubaker is a liar!,” screamed the headline of a news story in which GOP Rep. John Nichols, Craven County, accused GOP House Speaker Harold Brubaker, Randolph County, of not keeping his word to appoint him as Co-Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. 

One by one, headline by headline, they got the picture.  The North Carolina Republican House caucus members had turned on each other over issues of power and prestige, and most often over ideological differences.  “You have to decide if you want to be right or if you want to govern,” I said, remembering how our GOP caucus had divided into self-destructive feuding camps.  Virginia and North Carolina are a lot alike.  We have much to learn from each other. 

Every four years, Virginia election results have great predictive value for North Carolina’s next elections.  For instance, in 2009, one year after President Obama won both Virginia and North Carolina thanks to historic high turnout of African Americans and young people, we saw the turnout of black voters and young voters plummet in Virginia.  In 2009, women and independent voters broke in favor of Republicans after voting decisively in favor Democrats one year earlier.  

Low turnout of the Democratic base and the shifting political sentiments of women and independent voters in 2009 not only helped elect a Republican governor in Virginia, they helped elect Republican Chris Christie in New Jersey and Republican Scott Brown in Teddy Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts. 

In 2010, Virginia’s election trends repeated themselves over and over, leading to the largest gain by any political party in Congress since 1948 and a GOP wave election year that led to majority Republican legislatures all over the nation, including the historic first Senate and House Republican majorities in North Carolina since 1898. 

That's why a close look at Virginia's 2013 election results has great predictive value for North Carolina's 2014 congressional, legislative and appellate judiciary races.  

#1 Reason Why Republicans Lost Virginia but Won New Jersey in 2013

Since 1989, NBC News and The Wall Street Journal have hired two of America’s most preeminent polling firms, Peter D. Hart Research Associates, a Democratic firm, and Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies, to collaborate on national surveys.  The bipartisan teamwork on the series of surveys gives the results high reliability, a rarity in this era of advocacy polling and news. 

The most recent NBC News and The Wall Street Journal survey, conducted October 25-28, 2013, shows why Republicans lost the race for governor in Virginia but won the New Jersey governor’s race.  Here are the telling questions and results: 

Question 13: Do you want [Democratic and Republican] leaders in the [U.S.] House and Senate to make compromises to gain consensus on the current budget debate, or do you want them to stick to their positions even if it means not being able to gain consensus on the budget?

  • 71% of Independents said "Compromise;" 18% said "Stick to Positions"
  • 68% of Democrats said "Compromise;" 23% said "Stick to Positions"
  • 46% of Republicans said "Compromise;" 47% said "Stick to Positions"

Republican voters, like the U.S. House Republican caucus, are divided against each other on the issue of whether to "Compromise" or "Stick to Positions" on matters relating to the nation’s budget.  Democrats, and Independents are overwhelmingly in favor of finding compromise. 

It is Tea Party Republicans in the U.S. Congress with their "Stick to Positions" rather than “Compromise” recalcitrance who are seen as most responsible for the October government shutdown.  It was the October government shutdown that created a national backlash against the Republican brand, especially against Tea Party Republicans. 

Question 5: Now I'm going to read you the names of several public figures and groups. I'd like you to rate your feelings toward each one as very positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative, or very negative.

  • NJ Republican Governor Christie had the highest positive-over-negative net of +16
  • The Democratic Party had an unfavorable positive-over-negative net of -3
  • Pres. Obama had an unfavorable positive-over-negative net of -4
  • Ted Cruz (Tea Party U.S. Senator) unfavorable positive-over-negative net of -11
  • Mitch McConnell, GOP U.S. Senate leader, had an unfavorable net of -17
  • Harry Reid, Democrat U.S. Senate leader, had an unfavorable net of -17
  • The Tea Party Movement had an unfavorable net of -24
  • John Boehner, GOP U.S. House Speaker, had an unfavorable net of -26
  • The Republican Party had an unfavorable positive-over-negative net of -31

Now remember, this poll was taken a week before the Virginia elections by two of America’s most preeminent polling firms, a Democratic firm and a Republican firm.  When asked if they supported the Tea Party, 70% of the respondents said "No," only 22% said "Yes." Only 1-in-5 of the survey’s respondents said they were "Liberal."  It's not just liberals who see the Tea Party negatively, it's half of the Republicans and most of the Independents. 

Yesterday, November 13, 2013, USA Today featured a story titled Top McAuliffe, Cuccinelli aides agree shutdown was key, in which Chris LaCivita, chief political strategist for Virginia’s gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli, and Ellen Qualls, Democratic governor-elect Terry McAuliffe's senior adviser, agreed that the Republican-led government shutdown, more than anything else, drove the election results.  “More than anything ... it is what cost us the race," said LaCivita, who described how the shutdown overshadowed the ObamaCare rollout debacle. 

You can point to many reasons why Cuccinelli lost the governor's race, like being outspent because the Republican establishment would not finance his campaign, like the fact that he turned off women voters with his hard right social conservatism, or like the fact that McAuliffe's campaign and a high tech turnout operation that reversed the 2009 trends among blacks and young voters to more favorable numbers.  But ultimately it all comes down to guilt by association with those responsible for the government shutdown within weeks of Election Day, the Tea Party. 

If the Tea Party recruits candidates like Ken Cuccinelli in North Carolina in 2014, those who believe that it is more important to "Stick to Positions" than "Compromise” at a time in our nation’s history when solutions to great problems are desperately need, then they will suffer the same fate.  They will drive away financial support, they will drive away women, young people and independent voters, they will weaken the Republican brand and the GOP’s chances of winning races for Congress, the legislature and the appellate courts in North Carolina.

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