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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Smart money says Dems and GOP elites choke in must-win situations

Perhaps it’s fitting that it’s the time of year when baseball teams (those still alive in the World Series, at least) face “must-win” scenarios because the Democrats are confronting one of their own in the upcoming Virginia gubernatorial election (two weeks from yesterday).

As one of two states to hold off-year statewide elections the Old Dominion is receiving more than its share of attention these days since there’s very little drama in the New Jersey contest to replace the unpopular outgoing Gov. Chris Christie. Christie made headlines eight years ago when he won as a reformer in the solid Ralph Northamblue Garden State (in Obama’s first year of his presidency no less) but the luster of the rotund Republican’s win was tarnished over the course of two terms through scandal and snuggling too closely with the party establishment. There’s no question Christie’s lost his mojo.

Therefore, all eyes are on Virginia this year where the race is boiling down to a Democrat must-win if the minority party is to sustain its “Trump is dragging down the GOP” national narrative.

If recent polls are any indication, they’re worried.

Kevin Robillard of Politico reported, “Democrat Ralph Northam is leading most polls of the Virginia governor’s race. He has millions more to spend in the closing weeks of the race than Ed Gillespie, the Republican nominee. And he’s aired more television ads than Gillespie over the last month.

“But despite all of that, Democrats are growing increasingly anxious about the too-close-to-call campaign. While Northam has held leads ranging from a few points to double digits in most polls, the first survey in months showing Gillespie with a 1-point edge came out just weeks before Election Day — and in any case, after overconfidence in 2016, almost no polling lead could relieve Democratic worrying. Some in Northam’s party are concerned about his campaign’s decision to outsource its digital advertising to outside groups. And others were dismayed to see the campaign leave the party’s black lieutenant gubernatorial nominee off some fliers distributed by a union.”

To help alleviate some of their own concerns Democrats unleashed their “stars” to invade the south to campaign for Northam in heavily Democrat northern Virginia, including Obama and “uncle” Joe Biden. Northam himself has a rather thick folksy accent and seems to go out of his way to emphasize that he’s just a regular guy, a practicing pediatrician who cares a lot about kids – the ones surviving until birth that is.

Northam’s ads – the ones I’ve paid attention to at least – involve the subject of abortion and feature a likely out-of-context soundbite from Gillespie suggesting the Republican would “ban” abortion. The spots include several women speaking bit parts about how “If Ed Gillespie wants to ban abortion I don’t want him to be governor.”

Other Northam ads present his promise to end things such as the “gun show loophole” and various other liberal dog whistle causes you’d expect to hear from someone running to take Clinton buddy Terry McAuliffe’s place in Richmond. If Northam manages to win expect more of the same from the governor’s mansion because in Virginia, like virtually everywhere else in America, there’s no such thing as a “moderate” Democrat any longer.

My state senator (I live on the very western edge of a district that includes some densely packed Democrat neighborhoods) – Democrat George Barker -- actually visited my house when campaigning door-to-door several years ago. Barker politely introduced himself and asked my wife and I about our opinions on a few non-controversial topics like road and public transportation funding and claimed “you’d be surprised to find that we really aren’t that far apart on a lot of topics.” After talking with him for about five minutes, however, we did indeed discover that we disagreed on practically every issue.

Barker thanked us for our time and moved on to potentially more fruitful voter pastures – and he didn’t receive our backing.

For his part Gillespie has drawn much media criticism for the “dark” tone of his ads revealing Northam’s past support for the concept of sanctuary cities – a subject where, unlike with abortion – a governor can actually have some impact on the law.

With Roe v. Wade remaining legal precedent there’s very little any state’s governor can do to affect a “woman’s right to choose” other than to regulate the practice and make it as difficult as feasible to obtain an abortion. But make no mistake – abortion cannot be “banned” -- so Northam’s ads are typical Democrat sensationalized misinformation (if not outright lies) designed to scare uninformed people away from considering Gillespie.

There’s little doubt Virginia has become significantly more liberal (largely due to an influx of northerners) over the course of the two-plus decades I’ve lived in the state but I still don’t get the sense abortion is that salient of an issue here (unlike taxes, the Confederate monument controversy or what to do with Obamacare). Republicans retain a solid majority in the state assembly and a slim advantage in the senate so a Democrat governor can’t do too much damage without running afoul of his constitutional powers.

Meanwhile, Gillespie is a career establishment politician who once chaired the Republican National Committee and appears to run for any office he thinks he might be able to win. You may recall Gillespie came agonizingly close to upsetting liberal Senator Mark Warner in 2014 when pre-election polls all showed the incumbent comfortably ahead.

Republicans are hoping for a similar “shock” result on election day in two weeks, though Gillespie’s lack of close ties to the grassroots raises some doubts as to his ability to turn out voters. He’s not exactly a principled conservative, but put up against Northam Gillespie starts to look like Ronald Reagan.

It’s a similar type of conundrum conservatives are confronted with all over the country at election time -- choosing establishment Republicans over liberal ideologue government-should-control-your-lives Democrats. That’s why it’s of paramount importance to choose real limited government advocates in the party primaries. That’s where the war’s at these days, for sure.

One such battle would have taken place next year in Arizona had Senator Jeff Flake not bailed out months ahead of time.

Kyle Feldscher and Melissa Quinn of the Washington Examiner reported, “Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake announced Tuesday he won't seek re-election in 2018 after facing withering attacks from President Trump.

“Flake confirmed his decision in a Senate floor speech, and condemned the current state of politics as one of the main reasons he's deciding to step aside.

“’It must also be said that I rise today with no small measure of regret,’ Flake said on the Senate floor. ‘Regret because of the state of our disunion, regret because of the disrepair and destructiveness of our politics, regret because of indecency of our discourse, regret because of the leadership, regret because of the compromise of our moral authority and by all, I mean all of our, complicity in this state of our affairs. It is time for that to end.’”

The Washington Examiner reporters indicated Flake was joined by a who’s who of the establishment and #NeverTrumpers for his sad tale of woe, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee, John McCain of Arizona, John Barrasso of Wyoming, and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

Earlier in an interview with an Arizona newspaper Flake complained there may not be room for a “Republican like me” in the party anymore. What, no space for a turncoat who swims against the tide of his own constituents, insults them for having adopted Donald Trump and openly defies the entire country by substituting his own beliefs for the wishes of the majority?

He’s right; there isn’t room for Flake anymore. The fact he’s skedaddling out of Washington means there’s one less idiot that needs to be eliminated via a GOP primary next year. It’s a well-known fact Flake was running behind Dr. Kelli Ward for the Republican nomination, so Flake’s impulsive exit probably meant he’s quitting before he makes a fool of himself and loses by double-digits to the pro-Trump faction.

Flake had been dissing Trump quite a bit lately, perhaps signaling that a capitulation was imminent. Burgess Everett and Seung Min Kim of Politico reported last week, “Flake chastised Trump’s protectionist trade positions and his party’s attempt to ‘scapegoat’ immigrants for the country’s economic problems. And unlike other GOP senators, Flake publicly agrees with the sentiments of retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who recently blasted the president for potentially leading the country toward ‘World War III’ with his erratic tweets and foreign policy pronouncements.”

Flake’s eagerness to join the brigade of establishment losers like Bob Corker may have tipped his hand early. The two of them can now spend many days on the golf course schmoozing with another former politician with a lot of time on his hands, Obama.

The Politico article ironically admiringly portrayed the Arizona senator as a rebel non-conformist when in reality Flake was the consummate go-along-to-get-along Republican of the past, the type that’s now an endangered species of RINO because of their ineffectiveness and outright lies. These are the type of pseudo-conservatives who make voting Republican challenging even when they’re up against the most heinous of Democrats.

The truth is, the days have ended where conservatives submit to the establishment’s demands to either re-elect ruling class elites or risk losing to the Democrats. Trump proved it last year and several conservatives will demonstrate it again next year.

Real conservative Republicans like Ted Cruz fight the Democrats, not the president. Joseph Lawler of the Washington Examiner reported, “Ted Cruz spent Wednesday night's nationally televised tax debate portraying his counterpart Bernie Sanders, along with the Senate's other top liberal, Elizabeth Warren, as the face of the Democratic Party.

“The CNN debate was supposed to be about the Republican tax plan. But, starting with his opening comments, Cruz tried to reframe the conversation to focus on the Vermont senator's vision of transforming the U.S. into a high-tax country with Nordic-style social democracy.”

Does that sound like an argument Jeff Flake would have made? Instead of attacking the Democrats Flake would join Sanders in turning the forum into a gripe session against Trump.

Common sense says the pressure is on Democrats to prevail in the Virginia election and on establishment Republicans to stave off conservatives in next year’s primaries. One way or another there are so many “must-win” scenarios that someone in the ruling class is going to end up a loser.

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