So argues the Wall Street Journal editorial board today (sub. req’d):
In Virginia, Democrat Tim Kaine’s defeat of Republican Jerry Kilgore shows what happens when the GOP loses credibility on taxes. Virginia is a state that Mr. Bush twice carried comfortably. But the GOP divided over Democratic Governor Mark Warner’s record tax increase last year, and Mr. Kilgore never said he’d repeal it. He tried to straddle the difference between business lobbies who liked more money for roads and the rank-and-file who hated giving more to the government. The result was that there was little real difference between the candidates on fiscal issues — and Republicans lose those campaigns nearly every time.
Mr. Kilgore ran instead on the death penalty and especially immigration, which ought to be a warning to Republicans in Congress who think getting tough on the border is the key to victory in 2006. At times Mr. Kilgore seemed to be running for Immigration and Customs Enforcement Commissioner, not Governor. But immigration is an issue, like trade, that always looks better in the polls than it does on election day; very few people vote because of it.
To his credit, Mr. Kaine also avoided the common Democratic mistake of condescending to culturally conservative voters. His personal opposition to capital punishment (and abortion) is on religious grounds, and Mr. Kaine said he would nevertheless uphold state law if elected. Mr. Kilgore’s nonstop death-penalty demagoguery might have backfired with social conservatives who saw a man being attacked for his religious beliefs. But the broader point is that Republicans who think they can count on Democrats to nominate cultural kamikazes like Howard Dean are fooling themselves.