The sweeping defeat suffered by Republicans in Virginia last month serves as a warning for the party ahead of the 2014 midterm elections, a top House Republican is warning Saturday.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), in a speech to be delivered to Virginia Republicans on Saturday afternoon, called on his party to move beyond internal differences that contributed to statewide losses in November and put forward a positive agenda, a message that could also apply to his congressional allies.
Democrats, led by former national party chairman Terry McAuliffe, won all three of Virginia's top state offices in November (a statewide recount will be held in the narrow race for attorney general). The state's U.S. senators are also Democrats. The GOP is shut out of all statewide-elected offices for the first time since 1969 — "the same year Neil Armstrong walked on the moon," Cantor said in excerpts of his speech provided to the Los Angeles Times.
"There is no sugar-coating this," Cantor said. "We simply cannot succeed if we are fractured and if we are not committed to working together. … We need to be focused on dividing Democrats, not dividing each other."
Cantor will be the top elected Republican in Virginia when Bob McDonnell leaves the governor's office next month. That will put him in the unique position of leading an increasingly conservative House majority while also helming the party in an important swing state, one that President Obama won in both of his election victories.
To win again, Cantor said, the party needs to set about "convincing the voters that we have their back."
"If we want to win, we must offer solutions to problems that people face every day," he said. "We have not done this recently, and it has allowed Democrats to take power, it has allowed them to push their partisan politics, and even worse to enact their leftist agenda."
Cantor made a similar case at the start of the current congressional term, laying out an agenda to move the party beyond the fiscal battles that characterized the end of the previous term to focus on what he called a "Making Life Work" agenda that could appeal to a broader constituency. Though elements of that agenda were passed by the House this year, it was overshadowed by the fight over the president's healthcare law and the 16-day government shutdown that resulted from it.
On Saturday, the House majority leader said the path he outlined does not mean sacrificing conservative values. "If we take our conservative principles and bring them directly to the kitchen table, if we speak directly to people and explain why our conservative solutions work and why liberal ideas are set up to fail – there’s no beating our Republican Party," he said in his prepared remarks.
Cantor was scheduled to speak at the Virginia Republican Party Advance, an annual post-election gathering. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a GOP presidential candidate in the last election, also had been scheduled to address the event, but canceled after declaring a state of emergency in his state after a winter storm.