Bob McDonnell's Remarkable Victory

Yesterday, I told The Politico about Bob McDonnell’s victory in Virginia, “I don’t think it’s so much a referendum on Obama’s policies as it is a reflection on us having a really, really good candidate.” I wanted to expand on this.

First of all, back in May, I said about Bob McDonnell:

No one outside of Virginia knows him yet, but he’s the best GOP candidate for governor in many years. He is also able to build a center-right majority. As such, he will win the 2009 race, and this will embolden others to run and start the way back for the GOP. If you have any doubts, look back at 1993 when after a 1992 drubbing for the GOP, the election of Allen and Whitman paved the way for takeover of Congress in 1994. Bob’s victory will propel him to become one of the party’s biggest new stars.

Not only did Bob win, but he won with the largest majority that any Republican has achieved in the history of Virginia. He led the party to pick up five seats in the House of Delegates. And Republicans swept the constitutional offices for only the second time in the history of the state. According to exit polls, Bob won every age group, and he won independents 2-1.

How did McDonnell do this? The exit polls made it clear what the people of Virginia were concerned about: jobs.  Eighty-five percent of the electorate was “worried about economic conditions” and 53% were very worried. Bob carried these 63%-36% and 77%-23% respectively.

In the end, the people of Virginia had a serious concern – the economy, which nearly everyone is worried about – and McDonnell connected this concern to his policy prescriptions. Reviewing his website shows some of the most detailed policy proposals I have ever seen in a non-presidential campaign.

At the same time, he was attacked viciously and unfairly for a paper that he wrote in graduate school. But Bob knew that the people of Virginia weren’t interested in divisive social politics. Instead he kept discipline and kept the focus on what the people wanted to hear about, not what his opponent wanted him to talk about.

These are signs of a very talented leader: determination, discipline, policy expertise, awareness of the voters’ desires and needs, and an ability to connect with them.