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2012 results offer lessons for 2013 GOP candidates

- 2012-results-offer-lessons-for-2013-gop-candidates

2012 results offer lessons for 2013 GOP candidates

Next year, at least three Republican heavyweights from Prince William County are set to compete for statewide nominations.
In order to avoid the fate of the federal GOP candidates that lost Virginia and Prince William County this year, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Del. Scott Lingamfelter and Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart will need to turnout their base voters while winning over independents without alienating Democratic-leaning constituencies.
Lingamfelter and Cuccinelli both offered their views about what the 2012 campaign will mean for their prospects in 2013.
Cuccinelli is competing against Lieutenant Gov. Bill Bolling for the Republican nomination for governor. Lingamfelter faces Stewart and others to succeed Bolling.
Conventional wisdom at this point is that the turnout model for the general election next year will be different than it was 16 days ago.
Typically, an off-year electorate features more senior white folks making up a larger percentage of the electorate.
Older whites tend to support Republican candidates more often than Democratic ones while minorities in 2008 heavily backed the Democratic ticket in Virginia and in most parts throughout the country.
However, in order to make it to the general election, Republican statewide candidates must first make it through the party's nominating convention in Richmond.
While the Democrats opted for a statewide primary in which anyone can vote in order to nominate their statewide candidates, Republicans are limiting their convention to only those who identify as Republicans.
Virginia does not have official party registration but citizens can choose to affiliate themselves with local committees or pledge to support GOP candidates in the general election by voting as a Republican delegate at the nominating convention.
By design, convention crowds are smaller than the primary electorate.
That smaller audience is dominated by party activists, and activists from either party tend to be more partisan and less moderate or centrist than the electorate at large.
What that means for the Republicans is that the candidates viewed as the most conservative can make an emotional appeal to the party's base.
All three Prince William candidates will champion that cause but Stewart has mentioned electability too by stressing the importance of winning Prince William County, something he has done countywide three times (2006, 2007, 2011).
Lingamfelter, often viewed as one of the more socially and fiscally conservative members of the House of Delegates, said that "victories are not only built on ideology."
Grassroots organization matters too, he added.
He credited both Pres. Obama and Sen.-elect Tim Kaine for having superior get-out-the-vote operations compared to the GOP ticket for president and U.S. Senate.
For the Republicans, presidential nominee Mitt Romney and former Sen. George Allen both lost by double digits in the county on their way to losing Virginia as a whole in their respective races for president and U.S. Senate.
What should be different about 2013 is that Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has the highest approval rating of any Republican governor in the country among women and African Americans.
A Quinnipiac University poll released this past week showed McDonnell with a 53 percent approval to a 26 percent disapproval rating, giving him a plus-27 spread.
That means that while Virginia residents support federal Democrats statewide, they have strong feelings about the leader of the state GOP.
It is because of that and the fact that Richmond operates and is viewed differently than Washington, D.C that Lingamfelter is pointing how the importance of running on what works in Virginia.
"Candidates that try to nationalize the races do so at their own peril," he said.
Lingamfelter views himself as having a unique benefit entering the convention and potentially general election if he is nominated because he can claim favorite-son status in different areas of the commonwealth.
Born in New York City, he was raised in Richmond, earned his bachelors of arts degree from the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington in 1973 and his masters from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in 1981.
The retired Army colonel was also stationed in Hampton Roads and resided in Herndon and Fairfax before settling in Woodbridge.
His wife is from Bridgewater, which is southwest of Harrisonburg.
"I'm one of those guys who has lived all over the state," said Lingamfelter.
A key difference between the national Republican ticket this year and the prospective Republican candidates for next year will be how they focus on winning crossover votes from Democratic-leaning constituencies.
During the 2009 attorney general race, Cuccinelli won 1,288 votes in Petersburg City, which is of the most heavily concentrated areas of black residents in the commonwealth.
Romney only won 239 more votes than Cuccinelli while at the same time, Obama outperformed Cuccinelli's 2009 Democratic opponent Steve Shannon by 9,370 votes.
The net result is that Cuccinelli took almost 21 percent of the vote out of Petersburg while Romney secured less than 10 percent of the vote from the same city.
At the same time, Bolling only nabbed 19 percent out of Petersburg, taking in 87 fewer votes than Cuccinelli despite running ahead of him on the ballot listing.
"I focused more on the black vote than my ticketmates," said Cuccinelli.
He specifically referring to his targeted advertising campaign "that intentionally engaged them."
"You want to be communicating across the spectrum" and "you want to engage everybody across the spectrum," Cuccinelli later added. "But when you get to (get-out-the-vote operations), you should be turning out the people who have already said, 'I am going to vote for you.'"
When asked how he thinks he outperforms other Republicans in the Democratic leaning areas of his district, which includes which includes parts of Prince William and Fauquier counties, Lingamfelter replied, "I have a very good constituent service approach."
In 2007, the last time Lingamfelter faced a Democratic challenger, he won six precincts in Prince William County along with a majority of absentee ballots en route to winning his district's portion of the county as a whole.
That overlaps on the same turf Obama's team wiped out Romney as the former Massachusetts governor.
For example, Lingamfelter won Neabsco District precincts of Minnieville, Bel Air and Enterprise, precincts Obama carried by better than 2-to-1 margins with much higher turnout.
Cuccinelli, who lives in Nokesville, had the same reputation for constituent service in Fairfax County as a state senator despite being one of the two most conservative members of the state Senate.
He split that title with state Sen. Mark Obenshain, who is now running to replace Cuccinelli as attorney general.
The attorney general said that the best way for someone in his position to win over voters is to communicate a "constructive message that appeals to each person's life."
In short, he stressed he tries to connect what happens to individuals with "real world policies.
"You've got to be able to close that sale," said Cuccinelli.
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