The biggest point that Rees makes worth repeating is that Tom Perriello is, sadly, not the liberal bogeyman that the NRCC makes him out to be. Look at this article today from Real Clear Politics about the Virginia Democrats up for reelection next year:
Perriello, though, has also bucked his party leadership this year, including publicly supporting a bill that would prohibit congressmen from taking campaign contributions from a company in the same campaign cycle that they requested an earmark for that company. Democrats have so far done nothing with the bill. He also supported, along with only a dozen or so other Democrats, privileged resolutions brought forth by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to look into the relationship between earmarks and campaign contributions. Those also went nowhere.
On the big issues like health care and cap and tax Perriello has been a good liberal. But he's broken from his party enough time to show "independence." Do you really think "Ivy-bred" Perriello is stupid enough to think he can run as a 100% Nancy Pelosi liberal? No, he's smart enough to break from the party when he needs to. Just look at his vote in support of the Stupak Amendment to ban federal funding of abortions in the health care bill. The guy's smart. He really is "Ivy-bred."
In the big picture, take a look at where Obama stands nationally with this post from liberal Democrat blogger Chris Bowers His graph makes a pretty good argument that most people who voted for Obama still like Obama. And most people who voted for McCain still don't like Obama. Which makes a lot of sense. The problem for Democrats is that Obama voters aren't turning out to vote when it's not Obama on the ticket. They are also helped by two smaller groups that, combined, can have a big impact. First, conservatives who didn't come out and vote in 2008 because McCain ran a lackluster campaign. Second, the small group of Bush-Obama voters who swing election to election.
That latter group is being driven by the economy argues Nate Silver at 538. And how people feel about the economy not only influences how they feel about Obama, it influences how they feel about all of Obama's agenda, like health care reform. If the economy improves you can watch Obama's numbers increase again. And support for his agenda, despite how liberal it is. That's just the way it is.
So I think that most people who voted for Perriello last time around still like him. And most people who voted for Goode still probably don't like Perriello. But the problem for Republicans, not the Democrats, is that Goode was far more well known and established. There's schools, highways, courthouses, and more named after his family. He had been serving in the area since the 70s. He was a former Democrat. Perriello won because he did a better job in winning over McCain voters than Goode did of winning over Obama. And I think Goode did run a bad campaign. But he also was a very, very strong incumbent. I don't think someone like Hurt, with no competitive election under his belt, will have have as much clout as Goode.
Victory for Republicans against Perriello will be based on getting more conservatives out to vote than Perriello gets liberals out. Some of the game will be with swing voters. But a solid conservative with strong base turnout will be advantaged over Perriello. Someone like Hurt with weak base support will have to work twice as hard to win over swing voters. Republicans, you have been warned.