Friday, October 26, 2007

Tom Davis and the GOP

Long time Republican Representative Tom Davis, a "moderate" from Northern Virginia, made official yesterday what everyone had already known: he's not going to run for Sen. John Warner's open Senate seat in 2008.

It's really too bad, since it would've set up a hotly contested nomination fight between Davis and former Governor Jim Gilmore. We wanted to see that battle, because it would have forced Gilmore to get his reactionary views out there on the record, a big help in the general election campaign. Now, instead, Gilmore will easily be nominated in one of those extremely small tent conventions the GOP holds, attended by right wingers and further right wingers.

We don't blame Davis, however--once the Republican insiders decided to hold a convention, instead of a primary (where more moderate independent voters--crucial to the general election--would be allowed to vote), the deck was stacked against Davis.

We generally like Davis, who works hard and sticks to the center. We call him a "moderate" in quotation marks because it's only the party's hard right shift that makes him a moderate, as opposed to a more traditional conservative. Among Davis's more progressive moves has been his support for compromise legislation that would give the District of Columbia a voting representative in Congress.

Davis used the occasion of his announcement to state that claims of his imminent retirement from the House of Representatives are premature. But he didn't say he isn't retiring, either. We think his decision will hinge, in part, on how his wife, Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, does in her state Senate race in a couple of weeks. If she loses to Democratic challenger Chap Peterson, then we think Tom Davis will also call it quits in '08, avoiding a likely bruising election contest in his ever more Democratic leaning district, and going off to make some real money in the private sector.

Davis also took a swipe at his party's direction, saying that the "face of the party" must change, and pushing for a presidential nominee such as McCain or Giuliani with the "independent" streak he believes the party needs to be able to win. (See Washington Post story: "Davis Confirms He Won't Seek Senate Seat").

Davis is certainly right that centrist, independent voters, fed up with both parties really, will be the key to the 2008 elections. In Virginia, it could be interesting. Conservative Gilmore will challenge moderate Mark Warner for the open Senate seat, while in the presidential campaign we expect it will be Hillary versus who knows? If the GOP does nominate McCain or Guiliani, they might well carry Virginia against Hillary, although conservatives might decide to simply stay home, especially if Gilmore's race looks hopeless.

In fact, we'd rate the chances of Democrats winning Virginia's electoral delegates as pretty low if Hillary is the nominee--but not impossible. It will depend on turnout in Northern Virginia.

But that's all still a year away. Let's see what happens on November 6, when Democrats are expected to make gains in the Virginia legislature. Will they be big gains? Or just a small step forward?

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