- - Wednesday, November 3, 2021

On Tuesday, Republicans in Virginia won all three statewide races — governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general — and, as importantly, regained control of the House of Delegates by picking up seven seats held by Democrats.

To fully appreciate the magnitude of the wins on Tuesday, it is important to remember that Virginia is not a purple state. It is a blue state. The last time a Republican won statewide in Virginia was 2009.  The last Republican senator lost his reelection in 2006. The state Senate and House of Delegates are controlled by Democrats.

So the Republican victories were impressive.

While there are many reasons for the victories, three are probably the most important. First, the candidates were very good and ran very good campaigns. That has not always been the case in Virginia.

Second, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe was unable or unwilling to articulate a positive message. The iron rule of campaigns is that campaigns about something always beat campaigns about nothing. A corollary to that rule is that positive agendas always beat grievance-based agendas. Take note, all of you 2022 and 2024 candidates and campaigns. 

Third, and once again, state-level political operatives on the Republican side are better and have been better than their opponents for at least a decade.

The main reason for this is the Republican State Leadership Committee. The RSLC, led by Dee Duncan, is probably the most effective political team in the United States. It helps Republican candidates run and win at the state level. In Virginia and other states, they provide the skeleton and muscle for statewide and legislative races.

It is no accident that the Republicans control 61 of the 99 – and will shortly control 62 of 99 — state legislative bodies. The Republicans have spent more time, skill and resources on state parties and races than the Democrats.

For example, a few weeks ago, they announced the creation of the Right Leaders Network initiative, which is explicitly designed to recruit and train non-traditional candidates to run and support them during their campaigns.Ordinarily, such an announcement would have been a simple press release followed by silence.

In the case of the RSLC, they rolled out the initiative with a panel discussion, including advisory board members Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Reps. Young Kim of California and Ashley Hinson of Iowa. RSLC board member Luis Fortuno, the former governor of Puerto Rico, presided.

It was a clear demonstration of the commitment of the national party to the initiative. It was also a clear example of the diversity already present within the Republican ranks. Mr. Scott and Mr. Rubio are among the most accomplished senators on the Republican side, and both may run for president. Ms. Kim has run and won in one of the more challenging districts in California and will no doubt run for statewide office at some point.

As is often the case, Mr. Rubio had the clearest explanation. “The Republican Party is expanding … and we are becoming a multi-ethnic, multi-racial coalition of hard-working Americans who love their country. … [W]inning in the next decade will require more than just the right policies. It will also require leaders who understand the challenges of the communities they represent. … With the support of the RSLC, we will build our bench of dynamic leaders to prepare them to lead the future of the party.”

Mr. Scott rightly added: “The Republican Party stands for opportunity for Americans of all backgrounds, and we are strongest when our candidates and leaders look like America. Through the Right Leaders Network, the RSLC is making investments in growing our big tent.”

There always seems to be a lot of hand-wringing among Republicans about the future of the Republican Party. The track record of the RSLC, including its recent success in Virginia and the promise of its new initiative, should encourage Republicans that things are going in the right direction.

• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to President Trump and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.

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