There has been plenty of navel gazing amongst Republicans for the past two weeks, but what about the Virginia Democratic Party? Where are we? What are our strengths and where can we improve? Strengths: 1. Candidate recruitment at the local level Taking a look around at the ’05 HoD races, I see tons of strong candidates on the Democratic side and many weak candidates on the GOP side. Many were not victorious, but the fact that we mounted credible races should not be forgotten. Christopher, Werkheiser, Fulk, and Ferguson are all strong candidates who ran great campaigns, despite the fact that things did not turn out as they expected. Roemmelt gave Bob Marshall a run for his money in a tough district. Look for all of these people to play a role in the future for the Democrats. Bulova, Marsden, and Poisson all ran great campaigns. 2. Strategy at the statewide level Byrne, Kaine, and Deeds could not have run better campaigns. Byrne overcame the “liberal” label to run close to a Republican who held his base. Deeds overcame a late surge by McDonnell and is now locked in a tight recount situation. Instead of trying to emulate Mark Warner’s ’01 race, Kaine ran his own race and made a strong play for the exurbs that will serve the Democrats well in the future. 3. Possession of the Governor’s mansion during an economic boom We took the Governor’s mansion at the exact right time in the economic cycle. A strong economy and plenty of tax revenue should allow us to do two things (at the same time): 1. Give funding to Virginia’s critical needs 2. Cut some taxes and retain the VDP’s moderate image 4. The Senate The VA Senate is packed full of liberal Republicans who will work with Kaine. Until the Republicans purge the RINOs from their party, they’ll continue the infighting and mixed messaging. Of course, it will take some vicious infighting to purge the RINOs, but that’s to be expected. 5. The looming return of Jim Gilmore If Gilmore steps back into the spotlight, the future is bright for Democrats Weaknesses: 1. No bench We’re going to need to pull statewide candidates out of our asses in ’09. Meanwhile, it would be disgraceful if we allowed two straight Senators to run unchallenged. 2. Weak fundraising Republicans continue to pull in way more money than us. One Virginia made up a bit of that difference, but as Mark Warner’s presence fades away and his attention turns to ’08, we might be in trouble… 3. Huge ideological minority in the House We may have picked up 2 seats in the House, but we also lost a couple of moderate Republicans (Dillard and Reese). The overall change in partisan tilt is minimal, although losing Dick Black and Brad Marrs helps a bit. 4. Strong Republican bench The Republicans have the opposite problem on their bench – too many people vying for too few statewide seats. This will be a problem for us in ’08 and ’09. 5. Growing influence of the NOVA liberal wing of the party We now have a game plan for winning in Virginia, and it involves running moderate candidates. The candidates who can run strong in the rural areas (rare) can concentrate there, while the urban candidates can rack up big margins in the urban and suburban areas. If we change courses and allow NOVA to pick all of our nominees, we’ll be saddled with liberals who cannot win. The Virginia Democratic Party cannot afford to allow NOVA liberals to run the show. Question marks: 1. Will Tim Kaine govern like a liberal or a moderate? Will he resist the urge to raise the gas tax? 2. Who will step forward and run in ’06, ’08, and ’09? 3. Will the Republicans wise up and start nominating Davis’s and Connaughton’s? 4. Will liberals take control of the VDP? 5. Will immigration ever be a viable issue for Republicans in NOVA? 6. Will Roe v. Wade be overturned, changing the political landscape at the state level? 7. Will it be Allen v. Warner (in some shape or form) in ’09?