A senior adviser to Republican Senate candidate George Allen blamed the national party and Mitt Romney's presidential campaign Thursday for allowing Virginia to go blue this election.
Boyd Marcus, a longtime Republican consultant in Virginia, said he knew early in the race that if Allen didn't make any mistakes, Romney could pull him across the finish line. Allen did his part, but Marcus said Romney's team and the Republican National Committee had an underwhelming get-out-the-vote effort that doomed them on Election Day.
"It was a lot of activity going on," Marcus said. "Most of it was pretty worthless."
Marcus participated in a panel discussion Thursday in Arlington along with Mo Elleithee, a senior adviser to Democrat Tim Kaine, Allen's opponent and the victor in Virginia's open U.S. Senate race. The two seasoned strategists were frank as they provided a behind-the-scenes look at the dueling campaigns.
Marcus, who is also advising Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling's gubernatorial bid, extended his criticism to the GOP in the Virginia General Assembly for taking on divisive social issues that became fodder for the Kaine campaign. Elleithee said a state debate on women's reproductive rights helped cast Allen and the Republican Party as out of touch with suburban women, an assertion Marcus agreed with.
"Your side was not helped at all by the Republicans in the General Assembly this year," Elleithee said.
Marcus replied: "Obviously."
From the winner's circle, Elleithee had very little criticism of his own campaign but admitted there were moments when his confidence wavered. After President Obama's lackluster first presidential debate, Elleithee saw a surge in the polls for Allen, thanks to Romney's superior performance.
"We felt the ground shift under us," Elleithee said.
There was resounding agreement that spending from outside political groups was out of control and it did not help Allen, even though the lion's share came from Republican organizations. More outside money was pumped into the Virginia Senate race than any other in the country, and it mostly came in the form of negative ads.
"Well over half [the interest group ads] weren't on our message, weren't on our points we tried to convey and they weren't well-done," Marcus said.
There was one saving grace for Marcus, who went into the election confident that both Romney and Allen were ahead in Virginia.
"Thank God," he said, "I wasn't on Fox News on election night."