This morning, some pundits are spinning Ed Gillespie’s close Senate loss in Virginia as the surprise of the election. It wasn’t. Gillespie was expected to lose, and he lost. With respect to PJ’s Bridget Johnson, Gillespie didn’t deliver a shock, he lost by an insurmountable 12,000 votes. His loss was no surprise for a variety of reasons, some of which I detailed here.
You want surprises? Look to Pat Roberts in Kansas, Thom Tillis in North Carolina and Cory Gardner in Colorado. They won facing big headwinds and polls showing them losing – the same circumstances facing Gillespie. They won. He lost. The winners are the surprise, not the as-expected loser.
The sad part of Gillespie’s loss is that he left so much on the table.
I previously wrote how so many conservatives, myself included, never heard one peep out of Gillespie – no calls, no mail, no knocks, no nothing. These were donors and top political appointees in the Bush administration who never heard a word, were never asked for their vote by the campaign. To many, there was no sign of the campaign.
Gillespie faced an opponent who voted for the radical Debo Adegbile for a top Justice Department post. Gillespie was a fan of the Gang of Eight immigration bill in the Senate. He ran on the rather amorphous slogan “economic growth” in a state that has seen plenty of it, much of it due to federal government largess.
In contrast, Roberts pulled out a genuine surprise in Kansas because he ran hard on blocking any form of amnesty, and thus activated the base.
Beware of the emphasis on Ed Gillespie. The conventional wisdom was he used the Senate run as a way to prime the pump for a run for Virginia Governor in 2017. Gillespie became the favorite recipient of praise for losing smaller than expected rather than winning. After Tuesday, perhaps Virginia Republicans should look for a candidate who can deliver a surprise combined with a victory instead of just outpacing polling data.