Reuters: President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats attempted on Sunday to tap into voter anger about a 16-day U.S. government shutdown and turn Virginia's upcoming governor's election into a referendum on Tea Party conservatives.
With Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe leading polls over Republican Ken Cuccinelli before Tuesday's vote, Obama and Democratic speakers at a rally in the Washington suburb of Arlington pressed party activists to focus on turning out the vote.
Northern Virginia's Washington suburbs, where many government employees and contractors live, was hit particularly hard by the government shutdown last month that resulted from a stalemate over the U.S. budget and debt ceiling that Americans for the most part blamed on Republicans.
Although Virginia's proximity to Washington DC made the government shutdown particularly painful there, the strategy of making it a referendum on the Tea Party would probably be as effective nationwide, if a Pew Poll on Tea Party favorability is any indication. Nationally, the Tea Party has taken a nose dive in polling, with favorables dropping 7-points during the shutdown to an all time low. At this particular moment in time, 'baggers are about as popular as a fart in an elevator.
And that seems unlikely to change, since pigheadedness and a complete disregard for reality has become hallmarks of TP thinking. Trapped in their Breitbart.com, FreeRepublic, Hot Air echo chamber, many 'baggers may be completely unaware just how widely hated they really are. In fact, since these propaganda sites only repeat happy news about their movement, some may even believe they're the most popular people in America.
Remember, when Mitt Romney lost, many in that Tea Party base were genuinely surprised, despite poll after poll showing that Mittens was so going to lose. Their echo chamber told them all the polls were wrong, that Romney was rocketing to glorious victory, and that America had finally had enough of this commie-socialist-nazi secret Muslim terr'ist from Kenya. Similar delusions may be rampant in Virginia.
The final Public Policy Polling survey on the race in Virginia shows McAuliffe heading into a pretty convincing win over Ken Cuccinelli, 7 points ahead as people make their way to the polls. As has been the case throughout the race, both candidates are unpopular. This is definitely a "lesser of two evils" race, where votes won't be cast so much for a candidate as against the opponent.
And polling shows that all those votes stacked up against Cuccinelli will be something of a mystery to Republican voters there. "Whether Republicans will learn any lessons if they lose on Tuesday is unclear," PPP reports. "Overall voters in the state think the GOP would have been better off nominating Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling than Cuccinelli by a 49/22 margin. But among Republican voters, they still think Cuccinelli was the right candidate to put forth by a 40/36 margin."
Bolling dropped out after polling showed him running 30 points behind Cuccinelli in the Republican primary. "What might've been" might be a fun exercise in supposition, but it was never going to happen. Republicans lined up behind Cuccinelli, the most extremist candidate their party was offering, because of Tea Party purity and that echo chamber assurance that their ideas and positions were so awesome that no one could ever seriously disagree with them. You wonder how many know how badly he's actually losing and how many are lost in the fact-free delusion caused by listening to talk radio and reading the rightwing blogosphere. How many will be standing there stunned, watching the final vote tallies on their TV screens, like Romney voters a year before?
And that's the Tea Party's greatest weakness -- their self-inflicted ignorance. As their poll numbers crash, as Democrats use "Tea Party" the way Republicans used the word "liberal" back in the '80s and 90s, as their political brand becomes ballot box poison, they tell each other that they're the bestest and smartest and most popular kids in school. Which means that as Democrats begin to launch an attack on that very weak brand, they're more likely to laugh at the "libtards" getting everything wrong than they are to defend their crumbling ramparts.
Unless Republicans can convince the 'baggers to have some sort of regard for reality, Virginia 2013 is a glimpse of their party's future.
[photo Vox Efx]