With just 3.1%more of Mitt Romney’s 2012 voters, Cuccinelli could have celebrated a Dewey-defeats-Truman moment. Instead, 780,000 Virginians who supported Romney’s losing effort stayed home, and Terry McAuliffe sneaked past by around 55,000 votes. POLITICO profiled McAuliffe’s advanced data-driven operation, which read like the post-game analysis of Barack Obama’s win last year. Meanwhile, Stu Rothenberg underscored Cuccinelli’s failure to bring back Romeny voters.
There were plenty of challenges thrown at Cuccinelli: a spending gap, infighting, an erroneously modeled Washington Post poll that depressed GOP turnout, and center-right outside groups staying on the sideline. Blaming these things for the loss is like a football team blaming a one-point defeat on a bad call in the first quarter rather than a botched field goal on the last play of the game. Those factors put Cuccinelli in a bad position, but he was still in a position to win.
Campaign plans are being hatched for 2014 right now, and would-be victors should look at Cuccinelli’s loss careful. Luck – good or bad – is the residue of design.