Republicans must learn how to exploit political opportunity
I've been reading a lot of pro- and con- articles this morning about whether the RNC should be boiled in oil for throwing Cuccinelli to the wolves. Personally, I think the point you raise was valid... right up until the last few weeks of the election.
It really doesn't make sense to dump a lot of money into a long-shot race, particularly when the campaign situation is as messy as Virginia was. Not only did Republican money get frightened off by McAuliffe's negative-campaign carpet bombing of Cuccinelli, but I suspect they were looking at the huge population of federal workers in Virginia, thinking about the alleged damage to the Republican brand from the shutdown, and thinking it just wasn't solid ground for a big comeback.
But a big comeback is exactly what happened, and there was enough time to write some checks and capitalize on it. It could have been more than just a monetary investment, too. To cite one idea I've heard kicked around over the past few weeks, Chris Christie could have brought some of his mojo into the race by campaigning for Cuccinelli. He's exactly the kind of supporting player who could have swatted McAuliffe's scum-laced negative campaign aside, and reminded everyone that a corrupt Clinton bag man with a cloud of scandals buzzing around his head is not the kind of guy who should be running negative ads.
Last-minute money could have come from sources outside the RNC, too. Well-heeled Republicans need to be smart about finding good political investments. They should be savvy enough to know a solid last-minute opportunity when they see one.
The Left does a lot of bleating about the role of money in politics. McAuliffe is a platinum-plated example of everything they supposedly hate. He leveraged his fundraising connections and held a fire sale on political influence to raise a gigantic wad of cash, which he used to buy an election, pure and simple. And he did it with exactly the kind of relentless negative campaign that good-government liberals also profess to hate with a burning passion. Contrary to all the left-wing angst about Big Business using Republican lapdogs to run the world, it's the Democrats who use the anti-competitive power of their beloved Leviathan State to cadge money out of rent-seeking billionaires. Smart Republicans will use the McAuliffe race as a "teachable moment" to make that point.
I think it's fair to say that the Republican Party as a whole - from the RNC to big donors - needs to become more nimble, better able to adapt its tactics to changing conditions on the ground. They got spooked out of Virginia because they believed the media narrative about the shutdown... but in a state heavily populated by federal workers, where Barack Obama personally helped Terry McAuliffe make a big deal about the shutdown, the exit polls show a 46-47 split between voters who blamed Obama vs. the Republicans. The GOP really needs to stop buying into media mythology.
And should they have needed a crystal ball to see that ObamaCare would become a game-changing issue that almost single-handedly overwhelmed every other factor in the complicated Virginia governor's race? If the Republican political machine was truly plugged into the party's entirely accurate predictions of ObamaCare failure, it would have been ready to exploit an opportunity it should have known was coming.