Bob McDonnell showed the way for Republicans to run against unpopular liberal legislation like card check.
Republican candidates who run as unapologetic conservatives opposed to forced unionization, higher energy taxes, and government run healthcare in 2010 could position their party for mid-term electoral gains that exceed the historical average.
Although President Obama maintained strong personal approval ratings for much of his first year in office, public support for his top legislative items evaporated quickly. In a telling sign, independent voters sided with Republican gubernatorial candidates in Virginia and New Jersey this year by sizable margins — 65 percent and 58 percent, respectively.
Ben Dworkin, a political science professor with Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J., attributed the Republican win in his state to internal dynamics unrelated to national issues in his post-election analysis. Christie benefited by running against an unpopular incumbent and by addressing affordability concerns, the Rider professor concluded.
By contrast, McDonnell repeatedly invoked the specter of financially burdensome legislation moving at the national level to keep his Democratic opponent on the defensive in Virginia, with card check near the top of the list.
Republican strategists who are ambitious to nationalize the upcoming congressional races would do well to emulate the tactics McDonnell used in his race against Creigh Deeds, a state senator who had defeated former Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Terry McAuliffe in their party’s primary.
Deeds trailed McDonnell right from the start and attempted to close the gap by seizing upon a 1989 thesis the Republican candidate wrote for Regent University, a Virginia Beach-based Christian institution founded by televangelist Pat Robertson.
Charles Dunn, dean of Regent University’s School of Government, said in an interview that the incessant attacks on McDonnell’s thesis may have ultimately hurt Deeds with his own constituents.
“He [McDonnell] did not run against his record and this is a huge plus,” Dunn said. “When you have candidates who start running against their past they have a credibility problem. McDonnell did not need to emphasize social issues in the campaign because he already had this constituency and was free to focus on economic concerns.”
Dunn also suggested that Deeds may have deflated support for himself in his own precincts because he comes from a conservative part of Virginia where the commercials attacking the Regent thesis may have actually boosted McDonnell’s esteem among those voters.
Instead of playing defense, McDonnell campaigned without apology as both a social and economic conservative committed to protecting Virginia’s interests against federal encroachment. By focusing attention on the many economically unsound aspects of President Obama’s agenda, McDonnell greatly complicated his opponent’s campaign.
The card check and binding arbitration provisions of the so-called “Employee Free Choice Act” (EFCA) would add additional costs and new burdens to business owners who are already operating in a recessionary climate, McDonnell pointed out in his pitch to voters.
Opinion polls show the public is attuned to the anti-democratic elements of card check and ardently favor maintaining the secret ballot in union organization elections. But it is also vitally important to emphasize the impact binding arbitration could have on business owners and the economy at large, McDonnell explained in an interview.
“I think binding arbitration is actually the most egregious part of EFCA,” he said. “Allowing a federal arbitrator to come in and basically write a contract between labor and management if an agreement cannot be reached after 120 days is a horrible policy. This will put a terrific burden on business to cave into any number of demands. Binding arbitration is yet another example of an over burdensome federal government that wants to get involved in micromanaging the free enterprise system. It would hurt our competitiveness in Virginia.”
In the 2008 election cycle, labor union political action committees (PACS) contributed over $66 million dollars to congressional candidates with 92 percent of those contributions going to Democrats, according to OpenSecrets.org. Card check and binding arbitration remain top priorities for labor bosses who are expecting some form of payback for their contributions.
Looking ahead to the midterm elections, Colin Reed, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), expects anti-free market legislation, such as card check, to figure prominently into campaigns targeting vulnerable Democrats.
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