Who lost Virginia?

Ken Cuccinelli’s narrow loss in the Virginia gubernatorial race has become the latest battleground in the war between the so-called Republican establishment and Tea Party-type insurgents. The “establishment” blames the Tea Party induced government shutdown for alienating Virginians, a great many of whom work for the federal government.

The insurgents blame the Republican Party for not providing enough money to Cuccinelli’s campaign. Some suggest that the “establishment” wanted Cuccinelli to lose out of spite and/or so it could blame the shutdown for his defeat.

What does the Cuccinelli campaign have to say about this? Its chief strategist, Chris LaCivita, blames the shutdown above all else. He told NRO:

[The shutdown] moved the disaster of Obamacare away from our narrative. It sucked the oxygen out of the room. Instead of talking about Obamacare, we were talking about the shutdown. We had been preparing to use the October 1 start of Obamacare as the center of our strategy, and then it was just taken off the table.

LaCivita added that after the shutdown, the campaign’s internal poll numbers dipped and donors became “suddenly became gun-shy.”

The Republican Party may have been one such donor. If Cuccinelli hadn’t been trailing by as much as 10 percent in October polling, the Party probably would have provided more money to the campaign. To that extent, the government shutdown and the lack of greater financial support from the Party aren’t necessarily competing explanations.

In any event, LaCivita doesn’t blame Republican power brokers. He says:

The [Republican National Committee] funded our ground game, and I think that worked out well. We can quibble with a few things done by the [Republican Governors Association], but at the end of the day, they spent over $8 million, and that’s not something to be ungrateful for.

The real story here isn’t the merits, but rather the existence of a “Who Lost China” style debate over a lost election in a race that Republicans lose more often than they win.

More evidence, it seems to me, of the potential for a Republican/conservative crack-up.

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