WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A REPUBLICAN IN VIRGINIA?
At the junction of impending electoral trouncing in 2008 and hopeful visions of 2009 is an argument about what it means to be a Republican.
"There will be great battles should McCain lose on what it means to be a Republican. It will happen all over the country. How did we get lost? Some will argue that John McCain will argue that he wasn't conservative enough from day one, and that's why he lost, he wasn't true blue," Nutter said.
For Marshall, the current hurt of the Virginia GOP is directly tied to a hesitancy to stand up for "core" Republican principles.
"Most of them are afraid of their own issues. This is a very dangerous time to do that because the next election in the House of Delegates is going to decide who is in office for redistricting, so if you have a governor who is going to veto that stuff or a bunch of candidates who are pussyfooting around, you're going to lose," Marshall said.
For Potts, the prescription was just the opposite.
"Until these hard-headed extremists, these ideologues, understand that the only way you win is to have the big tents. The Democrats went through this at a point in time in their history with George McGovern. There is a point in time political parties go through a cleansing process -- they have this litmus test to be a Republican," Potts said. "To be a successful party you have to have all shapes and sizes, all philosophies, you can't have a bunch of ideologues who ask you to march in lockstep. I've been married to my wife for 43 years and I'm here to tell you that we agree to disagree. The strength of a party, the strength of a friendship, the strength of a relationship, is to have people who dissent."
Nutter falls somewhere in between.
"For someone to say that the Republican party has lost its bearings is not quite understanding what is going on but at the same time, if we've lost our bearing, I'm looking at some of the stuff that's coming out of Washington under President Bush," and understanding the origins of such concerns," Nutter said.
These concerns about the nature of Virginia Republican ideology are rooted deeply in how Republican politicians view the nature of the state of Virginia.
"A lot of people say Virginia is a red state. That's always been a mistake to make that assumption. Other than presidential (elections), it's always in play. In state politics, we've always swung back and forth between Republicans and Democrats ... I've always argued that Virginia is not an Alabama. Neither is its Republican party" Nutter said. "Given the right dynamics, either party can win statewide."
No matter what, adapting to a new political landscape temporarily dominated by Democrats will determine whether the previous several years were a symptom of a broken Republican brand or a sign of more to come.
"Unless we've learned those lessons, we haven't seen the bottom," Cuccinelli said.