Republicans Regroup After Dems Sweep VA Offices - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Republicans Regroup After Dems Sweep VA Offices

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2013 was a tough year to be a Republican in Virginia. Months of hard-fought campaigns yielded nothing but losses at the top of the ticket, ushering in the first Democratic sweep since 1989. But in tough times, conservative leaders are looking ahead.

"Of course you're going to look at what happened, how can we do better?" said Governor Bob McDonnell.

Some analysts attribute Republican losses in 2013 to a changing Virginia electorate, and changes in the way campaigns are run. Heading into congressional midterm elections in 2014, party leaders say it's time to take stock.

"I think it is a time for a little bit of introspection among the party. But saying that, I don't think we're down and out yet either," said Bill Howell, Speaker of the House of Delegates.

Howell points to his 100-person chamber in the Virginia legislature, of which Republicans control two thirds. That will give the GOP bargaining power with the new Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe.

"I think that it's a viable party," said Howell.

Meanwhile, some like Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling worry about rifts within the GOP base, which could threaten the party long-term.

"You know, we've got to all figure out how to coexist and how to present our party in a positive way that attracts people to the Republican Party and doesn't drive them away," said Bolling.

Others say those perceived rifts are overwrought.

"To say that there's this huge wedge between Tea Party and mainstream, I mean I think honestly that's more of a creation of some in the media," said McDonnell.

Overall, many agree the party needs to find ways to appeal to a broader audience while holding fast to core principles of limited government.

"It doesn't mean that we have to abandon our conservative principles, and indeed we will not. We'll continue to be a conservative party, but we have to be viewed as a mainstream conservative party," said Bolling.

"I mean we've gotten some big things done because we've shared credit and people work together and we try to turn down the rhetoric a little bit. I think the more Republicans that do that, the more we win," said McDonnell.

After losing the presidency in 2012, the Republican National Committee started expanding its year-round efforts, with a focus on grassroots support and engaging minority communities. The party is refining its approach based on what it learned this year, and hoping new strategies can help turn things around in 2014.

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