Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Gilmore's Narrow Victory For Virginia GOP Senate Nomination

While we're waiting for Barack Obama to clinch the Democratic nomination sometime tonight, we thought we'd comment on the Virginia Senate race.

This past weekend, Virginia Republicans held their state convention. Former Governor Jim Gilmore barely obtained the GOP nomination for the open Senate seat being vacated by John Warner. Uber-conservative Delegate Bob "Taliban" Marshall almost pulled off a stunning upset, coming just 70 votes shy of taking the nomination after a quiet, underground campaign amongst the most conservative of the party faithful.

While Marshall didn't pull off the upset, his shock troops did manage to unseat pragmatic state party chairman Henry Hager (Jenna Bush's father-in-law) and replace him with a young conservative firebrand.

What does all this mean? For starters, it certainly means more trouble for those Republican officeholders still clinging to seats in Northern Virginia. Party insiders blame their recent losses on not being conservative enough, especially on social issues and taxes. In fact, it's the other way around: more moderate independent voters have been so turned off by the Republican Party of Virginia's brand of intolerant conservatism that they have virtually abandoned the GOP's candidates. That's especially true in Northern Virginia and in the Hampton Roads area.

This is nothing new, mind you. The Virginia GOP has been battling itself for a number of years, with the conservative purists gradually driving out the more moderate wing while shrinking the party.

The ideological purists will no doubt defeat Governor Tim Kaine's proposal to pay for desperately needed new roads with additional taxes, while making no practical proposals of their own. Evidently, Republicans in the state are content to just let the roads and transportation infrastructure gradually crumble away rather than come up with a fair way to pay for improvements.

The party is also likely to be lukewarm to McCain's campaign for President, thereby increasing the odds that Virginia will be "in play" in November. And it appears that many in the party aren't all that enthusiastic about Jim Gilmore either, whose chances in November against the well-financed and popular Mark Warner are pretty slim to begin with.

Maybe when the Virginia GOP finishes driving out all but the most ideologically pure, and becomes a minority party in the state, it will start trying to figure out how to broaden itself as a means of winning. Don't look for that to happen too soon, however.

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