So I’ve already spouted off about this twice in comments (once here, and once over at Shamanic’s Simianbrain), and once in an e-mail to my colleague Doug. You know what that means boys and girls? It means M needs to get off his lazy butt and actually do a piece about it.

We’ll lead into it by paraphrasing a little quote. I have to paraphrase it because I only caught it on the fly on my way home from the campaign offices last Tuesday, and while I wish I could credit the source, it’s too important to pass up. Yes, as more and more punditizing has taken place, this little gem has only grown in significance in my mind and hopefully you’ll see what I mean.

Prior to the election results being released, the gentlemen I’m paraphrasing basically said that here in Virginia there are really three political parties. You have the socially conservative, anti-tax Republicans which were largely represented by Jerry Kilgore. You have the moderate Republicans who helped Mark Warner achieve his stunning popularity by working with him on tax reform etc. And finally you have the Democrats which are largely marginalized inVirginia.

Now, where the hindsight comes in is that now that we know how the election went, we can see that the moderate Republicans have struck again. Tim Kaine’s success is largely due to the winning of typical Republican strongholds as a result of this moderate strain of Republican.

So why should you care? It’s only Virginia right? Well yes and no. I think something similar is happening all over America, and unless Bush has an incredible comeback, you’re apt to only see this trend grow in magnitude. I believe that there is a line right now splitting the Republican party, and while it may vary a little from state to state, it is quite evident that right now, the far right branch of the GOP has become less of a gold mine, and more of a liability.

Even Ken Mehlmen, according to today’s Note, is endorsing a “run away from Bush like he’s the boogeyman” policy.

What that leaves us with is two X-Factors for the upcoming election cycles.

X-Factor 1: Moderate Republican Politicians

The GOP can save the party from a shipwreck if it leads heavy in 06 and 08 with its moderates instead of the BushCo style Republican. In other words, John McCain who, though quite conservative, is real good at sounding like a moderate will be a much bigger player come 08 than he was for 00. Also watch for Rudy the Mayor’s stock as it will undoubtedly rise with the fall of Bush’s fortunes.

As for next year, I got no names for you yet, but keep a close eye on who retires, and who steps up for the GOP to try and keep the seat.

X-Factor 2: Moderate Republican Voters

Here’s the big and juicy. If the current administration continues along its current track of stellar successes, look for the non God, Guns, and Gays Republicans to become more disillusioned with their own party, and lost in the political sandstorm, searching for a beacon of hope and good governance. This is exactly where we’re heading.

This is the end result of a war that grows more unpopular by the day, fumbled disaster response in one of the poorest parts of the country, rampant indictments of top political officials, a blatant failure to pass your single largest domestic agenda item (SocSec), and whatever else (I’ve lost count). You lose the ability to rely upon a very important voting bloc. And the Democratic party can swoop in to scoop it up.

For the most part, we can use Tim Kaine’s campaign as a template. Things are going to change from region to region, obviously, but the big points are there.

-Run a positive campaign that focuses primarily on a solid political platform of good governance. If the Democrats really want to take advantage of the opening they have been given, they need well fleshed out strategies on the economy, crime, education, foreign policy, and GETTING OUT OF IRAQ! This is not to say that Democrats need to say get out of Iraq now, but like everything else listed, there needs to be a simple to understand common sense plan. And I cannot say it enough, this has to be positive “we can do this” stuff. Democrats have to offer a better way, and you can’t do that if all you are saying is that the other guys are worse. With the President polling in the 30’s, and congress polling in the 20’s, America KNOWS that the GOP is having a hard time getting it done, what they need to hear is how the Democrats are going to do it better.

-Do not lead with wedge issues and hot button issues, but do not shy away from them. This kind of goes along with faith. One of the biggest successes of the Tim campaign is that he was HONEST and OPEN about his beliefs and stances on hot button issues. Trust me Roman Catholics in the South aren’t exactly what you call political blue chips. So the fact that Tim Kaine was religious wasn’t as important as he was comfortable with religion. No one felt as though he were going to church BECAUSE he was running for office. His stances on abortion and the death penalty were likewise similar. Sure he’s against both, but few people even considered it flip-flopping when he said that he was against both, but since it was his JOB to protect both, he would. The moral of the story; if you aren’t a regular church goer, don’t pretend, people pick up on it. If you don’t really go to church, don’t go to church. If you like your faith to be kept private, keep it private. If you feel a certain way on a wedge issue, then feel that way. No convoluted stories, no crazy explanations.

-Do not lower yourself to the level of mudslinger, but do not stand for mud being slung against you. This one really hurt Kerry last year. When the Swift Boat Veterans started their ad campaign against him, Kerry tried to play the high road and ignored it, hoping it would go away. It didn’t. Unfortunately, by the time camp Kerry realized something had to be done, the damage was already done, and there was little he could do to salvage. Take on accusations swiftly, respectfully, truthfully, and unequivocally. You will not only minimize the damage caused by an ugly smear campaign, but you will show voters that you actually have a bit of a backbone. They like that kind of thing.

In the end, it comes down to the age old question, “should the party move to the center or to the left?” Well when the wildcard voting bloc is right there floating in the center, what do you think? The big trick will be to see if the Democratic party can come up with a platform that will at least keep the liberal base at the table while siphoning off all the Republicans who are really just sick of this administration. Well see.

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