A gut check for the GOP in Virginia and New Jersey

Fred Malek Founder and Chairman, Thayer Capital Partners
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Voters in New Jersey and Virginia will tell us a great deal about the direction of the Republican Party with their votes for governor today. Depending on the final tallies, the results may very well be a gut check for a GOP in profound transition on a national scale.

Do we want purist ideology to prevail or do we want to win?

The question comes down to this:

We can be right and be in the minority or we can win and put the nation back on the right course.

We can let the Democrats define us as the party of intolerance and anger or we can redefine ourselves as a party of solutions and progress.

These are the lessons of the outcomes in the governor’s races in New Jersey and Virginia.

In New Jersey the more conservative national GOP has always had problems, but it seems that Chris Christie has cracked the code. He is a fiscal conservative, but his image as a fighter, willing to look beyond orthodoxy, has won him the respect and the votes of the people of New Jersey. He may not be the right wing’s favorite purist but he is in a position to shape the way his state is run. He was able to win and pursue policy objectives with bi-partisan support like a balanced budget and smaller government from a position of authority. Unlike the Ted Cruzes of the world, his GOP ideas won’t be shouted from the back bench but from the highest office in his land. That distinction should be a lesson to us all.

Our candidate in Virginia qualified, competent and conservative but is in a tighter race due to several forces stacked against him. Ken Cuccinelli went up against an opposition that was able to use their Clinton-infused two-to-one fundraising advantage to cast him as a rigid right-winger associated with an ongoing government shutdown. However unfair that was, in order to win the big elections we can’t allow our candidates to be put in a position where they’re seen as someone unable to come to the middle.

The GOP has perhaps the brightest and most electable bunch of Republican governors in the last 20 years. Our thirty different governors, both conservative and moderate, are some of the most creative public servants in the country. They understand how government and private business can work together to create jobs. More so than any of their federal counterparts, they understand the everyday impacts of entitlement reform, education reform, and tax reform for the middle class.

We have Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin who staked his entire governorship on reforming outdated public pension and healthcare polices. Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana completely transformed a failing education system into an efficient one that produces incredible results. There’s Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada, both of whom work with legislative bodies that are controlled, in both chambers, by Democrats. While they may have to meet in the middle more frequently than others, they remain steadfast in fighting for common sense conservative principles like lower taxes, less government spending, and balanced budgets.

At the federal level, the Republican Party must demonstrate similar practical conservative solutions and appeal to people’s desire for fearless leadership free from meaningless rhetoric. Showcasing GOP problem solvers will allow us to reconnect with an electorate that expects bold solutions and a fighting spirit, while remaining committed to solving the nation’s biggest problems.

The GOP can win the next presidential election. In many ways, the campaign starts today.