After the 2012 election, right-wing activists immediately declared that Mitt Romney lost because he was not conservative enough and that Republican candidates must run to the right if they want to succeed in general elections.
Last night in the swing state of Virginia, however, two extremely conservative candidates both lost in their statewide bids, the first time since 1977 that a candidate from the party that lost the presidential election failed to win the Virginia gubernatorial race.
Not only did the Religious Right dream team in Virginia lose both races, but so did an Alabama Republican who ran even farther to the right than his conservative opponent. These defeats come at a time that the Senate is set to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) with bipartisan support and two states—Illinois and Hawaii—are poised to legalize same-sex marriage.
Cuccinelli & Jackson Flop In Virginia
Virginia Republicans Ken Cuccinelli and E.W. Jackson, two Religious Right favorites, lose their races for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively. Cuccinelli’s deeply anti-choice and anti-gay record hurt him according to exit polls [PDF]: 50% of voters claimed Cuccinelli was “too conservative” and 61% of voters said they supported abortion rights. During the campaign, Cuccinelli advocated for strict restrictions on abortion clinics and the restoration of unconstitutional sodomy laws, even though some conservative activists complained that he shied away from social issues or wasn’t conservative enough.
Jackson’s attempt to downplay his extremist and bigoted rhetoric and policy positions was even more pathetic to watch, as he insisted that criticisms of his candidacy and quoting him verbatim were unconstitutional and even resorted to lying to deny making remarks that are recorded on tape. Yet, he predicted that “disenfranchised” Christians would lead him to “a stunning victory.”
Don’t expect their defeats to change the Religious Right’s skewed mindset about what it takes to win. Cuccinelli surrogate Jim Bob Duggar, who campaigned throughout the state on a Family Research Council-paid tour, claimed that the “vast majority of people in America are pro-life” and conservative voters represent a “sleeping giant.” Despite having Cuccinelli and Jackson leading the ticket, white evangelical turnout dropped seven points, from 34% to 27% of the electorate, compared to the 2009 gubernatorial race.
The Cuccinelli complain will likely complain that he was abandoned by national Republicans (even though the Republican Governor Association donated $8 million to Cuccinelli) and could have won if the “establishment” offered him more support.
Dean Young Defeated
Dean Young, an ultraconservative birther with strong support from local Tea Party groups, lost to former state lawmaker Bradley Byrne, hardly a moderate himself, in the GOP primary for a special congressional election in Alabama. Young made opposition to gay rights a central part of his campaign: he urged his GOP rivals sign a pledge to oppose gay rights and to attend a church that opposes gay marriage, compared homosexuality to murder and demanded gay Alabamians leave the state.
He is also a senior aide for Roy Moore, the Alabama supreme court justice who refused to obey a court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument that he had installed in the court rotunda and warned that gay rights will destroy America. Moore backed Young’s candidacy, as did Mark Levin, Phyllis Schlafly and Bryan Fischer, who fawned over him in an interview the day before the election, where Young continued to criticize “homosexuals pretending to be married” and warned that gay rights will lead to God’s judgment on America.
Young reportedly refused to call Byrne to concede defeat and announced that he may establish a national organization.
Marriage Equality Poised To Pass In Illinois, Hawaii
Anti-gay groups have consistently cited Illinois as an example that Religious Right has become more successful in fighting marriage equality. But the state legislature approved a marriage equality bill yesterday and the governor is a vocal supporter of legalizing same-sex marriage, which means that Americans For Truth About Homosexuality president Peter LaBarbera will soon live in a state with marriage equality.
With Hawaii also expected to pass a marriage equality bill this week, the success of the two gay rights measures represent big setbacks for Religious Right groups such as the Illinois Family Institute and Hawaii Family Advocates, which both employed ugly smear campaigns against the marriage bills.