race to replace Sen. John Warner has gotten a bit
Warner is already in, and the money is flowing
fast and furious into his coffers. Confident
Democrats and the press have all but elected him
to the office and consider the election to come as
more of a nuisance than contest.
not what’s interesting – though it does have a
certain Allen-like quality to it. What is of
interest are the events on the Republican side,
where the Tom Davis has folded his tent before the
race has even begun, leaving Jim Gilmore with what
seems to be a clear shot at a nomination no one
else seems to want.
those who pinned their hopes on a Davis candidacy,
his decision to withdraw (but hardly gracefully),
there is a sense of dismay. A good man, but more
importantly, a consistent winner in the great GOP
sinkhole that is Northern Virginia, has ceded the
field to a man – Gilmore – who is so
unpopular, so polarizing, that he cannot possibly
mount a credible challenge to Warner.
a lot to this. Yes, Gilmore is a polarizing
figure, for both Republicans and pretty much
everyone else. He can be abrasive, high-handed,
even down-right vicious (just ask Panny Rhodes).
The press dislikes him, the Democrats can’t wait
to run against him and… well, you get the
he’s also a very smart, very tough – and so
far, undefeated – campaigner. He sticks to
bread-and-butter conservative issues and makes no
excuses for championing them. And yes, he does
have a very loyal following within the party.
While his quixotic presidential bid did him few
favors, playing in Virginia, the turf he knows so
well, will make him a formidable candidate.
someone else comes into the race and challenges
Gilmore where he is most vulnerable: from the
from the right. Some people won’t remember it,
but Gilmore presided over an enormous
expansion in state spending. In the Cato
Institute’s 2000 fiscal report card on the
nation’s governors, Steve Moore wrote that:
budget grade is one of the worst in the nation.
The state budget has grown the fifth fastest in
the nation: after accounting for increased local
reimbursements as a result of the car tax, it rose
almost 3 percent faster than population growth and
inflation. State spending since 1998 has even
grown 2 percent faster than personal income—
Virginia has the sixth highest rate of income
growth in the nation— during a period when most
states have seen state spending shrink as a
percentage of residents’ wealth. Most of the
increased spending was on grades K-12 and state
universities, accounting altogether for about 25
percent of his $3 billion in proposed new spending
for 2000–02. Gilmore recently suggested that he
may need to put a stop to the car tax repeal if
revenue projections aren’t met. Yet it is
obvious that if spending hadn’t ballooned during
his term, plenty of money would be left for the
car tax cut. His spending hikes could seriously
jeopardize the fiscal legacy of Governor Gilmore.
enough, that’s what happened.
is also the matter of where Gilmore stands on
social issues and the Iraq War. Writing at National
Review Online, Kate O’Bierne noted that:
[Tom] Davis, Gilmore is pro-choice (supports
abortion during the first trimester). On the
war in Iraq, he is to the left of Davis. In a
Washington Post op-ed in June, he argued
for a "limited deliberate drawdown" of
American troops, though earlier in the year
he had backed the surge. He acknowledged that the
U.S. can't "abandon Iraq," so he
favored fewer troops with a limited mission.
Although during his term he significantly cut the
state's unpopular car tax, local anti-tax
activists criticize Gov. Gilmore for big spending
increases during his tenure. In the absence
of a solid conservative GOP successor, a Warner
announcement that he will seek another (final)
term could be welcome news. Amazing.
indeed. But if Beltway conservatives aren’t
comfortable with Gilmore, does that really matter?
Probably not too much. If anything, that
disconnect might actually work to Gilmore’s
favor. After all, one loses very few votes running
against the establishment, even the conservative
there are those who have decided that Gilmore’s
lax spending habits, lack of social conservative
credentials and the general cloud that surrounds
his final days as governor demand a different
number of names have been floated, but, so far,
there have been no takers. Eric Cantor would be a
good choice, coming from a safe Republican
district and sporting undoubted conservative
credentials. But he’s so far shown no interest
in making a run. Former RPV chairman Ed
Gillespie’s name was briefly mentioned, as was
Kate Obenshain’s. Even Jerry Kilgore’s name
has been batted about, if only briefly.
the more intriguing for some is that of Peter
Pace, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff. There is a blog
site devoted to the cause, and the movement
has gotten some notice both in Virginia and
this movement go anywhere? Well, part of the
thinking may be that it worked for the Democrats
and Jim Webb, so the Republicans can do it too.
That’s not much to go on, but the parallels with
the Allen-Webb race would be so numerous as to
possibly diminish any Gilmore effort to change the
Gilmore, Pace also has the support of the same National
Review crowd that so dislikes Gilmore, writing
of Pace that:
a veteran of the Pentagon’s senior ranks, he
would have a commanding advantage over all
other candidates on national-security issues.
Unlike other senior military leaders, the Catholic
General Pace has been outspoken about his
conservative beliefs on social issues. In
defending the military’s “don’t ask, don’t
tell” policy, he has forthrightly explained that
he believes homosexual conduct to be “immoral”
behavior that the military shouldn’t condone.
Adultery, too, should not be tolerated in the
military’s ranks, he has said.
Pace might bring a strong social conservative bent
to the race, in addition to his national security
experience, which would also tend to counter
Gilmore’s own national security work on
big question is whether Pace would be willing to
enter the political fray. So far, he’s shown no
inclination to do so. And given the tenor of last
year’s Senate contest, I cannot blame him for
any reluctance he may have.
if he should decide to answer this call, it would
make for one of the more interesting, and one
hopes, informative primary campaigns Virginia has
seen in some time. It would also provide
Republicans with the opportunity to present a real
choice to voters in the general election.
something they desperately need to do. One knock
against Tom Davis is that, as a moderate
Republican, he wouldn’t provide voters with a
clear alternative to Warner. And when the
distinctions are too few, voters tend choose the
candidate they know best, giving Warner the clear
as of now, it’s all Gilmore. Perhaps he can beat
Warner. After all, anyone can be beaten. (Just ask
George Allen.) But Republicans would do themselves
an enormous amount of good if they have a choice
when their nominating convention meets. If Pace
doesn’t jump in, someone else should.
wonder… what does Ken Cuccinelli’s calendar
look like late next spring?
October 29, 2007