Rep. Davis, Sen. Warner’s replacement?

Sen. John Warner walked by my office last week. We’re right next to the Rotunda at UVa. He walked like — as — an old man. His wife was at his side, helping him along. He shuffled a bit. I did a mental triple-take when I spotted him, thinking that’s Sen. Warner, then no, that’s an old man, followed by wow, Sen. Warner is an old man.

Crowd Watches Sen. Warner
A crowd watches Sen. Warner speak at the Rotunda on Friday.

By the time he made his way to the podium on the front steps of the Rotunda, the few hundred of us watching him felt quite certain what his announcement would be. He’d be nearly ninety at the end of a sixth term. The man simply didn’t look like he had it in him. When he finally stated his intentions, there was no ripple of surprise in the crowd, no murmur of comment. We’d all figured it out.

And now, of course, is the question of who will succeed him.

I’m not terribly interested in the matter of which person will be elected, at least not at the moment. I’m interested in which party will be elected.

Rep. Tom Davis is the presumed Republican nominee at this point. He’s basically been running for this seat for the past couple of years now, he’s got a million bucks raised, and it’s said that Warner would support him. Rep. Davis is rather a liberal Republican, as is necessary to get elected in his swath of Northern Virginia. The idea that the party would nominate him is more than a little startling. The RPV has been moving ever farther to the right, to their enormous detriment, causing them to steadily lose their majority in the General Assembly. Nominating him would be a marked reversal in that trend.

The DPVA, on the other hand, has been wisely encouraging centrist candidates to run, following the model established by Gov. Mark Warner and Gov. Tim Kaine after him. We’ve lost a great deal of ideological ground in doing so, but we’re getting more guys on our team in office in the process, so it’s well worth it. We run candidates to the right of our party because we know that these candidates best represent the electorate, and give us the best shot at victory.

So what to make of Davis as the Republican nominee? I’d see it as a tacit concession by the RPV that their party is far, far to the right of most Virginians, and that they, too, must run candidates who are closer to the center than their own party loyalists. Davis as nominee would mark a sea change for a party that has been giddy with power in the brief decade that they’ve had it, and show that they’re not going to go without a fight.

No doubt more than a few candidates will emerge to challenge him. Jim Gilmore, George Allen and Virgil Goode are all being encouraged to run, and they all have the conservative credentials that make them a real alternative to Davis. Whether the rank and file will have the good sense to reject those alternatives remains to be seen.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

38 replies on “Rep. Davis, Sen. Warner’s replacement?”

  1. Yawn… Gilmore gets nominated, Warner wins, Lieberman cries like a little baby. Nothing to see here, move along…

  2. Davis is in the pocket of business interests, and in his position on Government Oversight has blocked any meaningful oversight of a number of situations. He uses that not only to raise money for himself, but for his wife whom he wants to succeed him in the House, and to whom in her race against Chap Peterson he is having his supporters donate substantial (and in Virginia unlimited) money).

    He is not as moderate as he pretends – just look at his voting record in support of this president, especially on Iraq.

    All signs are Republicans will go to a convention. If so, and if Gilmore is only Conservative, no chance Davis will get the nomination.

    Even if it is a primary, Davis would lose heads up against Gilmore. He would be pounded by Club for Growth, and moderates and independents in NoVa might not vote for him in Republican primary if Mark Warner is Dem nominee.

    Even if he is nominee, no way he defeats Mark Warner.

    I’d say advantage is heavily Dem unless the Republican nominee is a conservative other than Jim Gilmore and Dem nominee is someone other than Mark Warner

  3. I gotta say that the whole myth that Davis is a moderate makes my skin crawl. He is no longer my representative to congress by virtue of my moving into Wolf’s district a few years ago, but I had to write to Davis several times as my representative and we rarely agreed on anything except the Tauzin-Dingell monstronsity.

    Check his voting records for yourself though, and Davis is certainly no moderate.
    He is completely and thoroughly a shill for corporate interests, and does not really care at all about people.

  4. There’s a school of thought in Republican/conservative circles that believes the GOP does better when it runs candidates with a strong affinity for conservative principles. Reagan’s the classic example of a staunch conservative who not only united the GOP, but also brought in millions of moderates who came to be known as “Reagan Democrats.”

    My point is: I’m not certain running a moderate squish like Tom Davis is the path to electoral victory vs. a popular moderate Dem like Mark Warner. That match-up could easily result in Warner winning the lion’s share of fence-sitters while the right-wing of the GOP stays home. Might it not be better for the RPV to go with Gilmore or Allen? At least you know the base will show up.

  5. What? Nobody thinks Virgil is likely to run? Or is it that Virgil is an extreme longshot?

    Virgil successfully running for Senate is the longest of longshots. I thought he would rather well fit as Tom Tancredo’s VP pick.

  6. Tom Davis was the first to defame as “traitors” anyone who dared question the Administration in the run up to war.

    That in itself is unforgivable treason.

    Davis is a Bush Republican through and through. He’s a right-winger in a moderate’s clothing, devoted to the party at the expense of either the nation or the commonwealth.

    But I take issue with what you wrote here, Waldo:

    We run candidates to the right of our party because we know that these candidates best represent the electorate, and give us the best shot at victory.

    First of all, the Democratic party itself better represents the electorate. On every issue from health care to the war in Iraq to immigration, the Democratic party represents the mainstream position.

    Please don’t make the mistake of reinforcing the myth of a conservative majority. A small portion of the population has ever held conservative beliefs. It’s a credit to the marketing, messaging, and propaganda prowess of the movement that you are repeating their talking point.

    It’s the same misnomer that allows people to perceive a radical like Tom Davis as somehow “Moderate”.

    For a national analysis of this effect, I refer you to this analysis from Media Matters. For a good review of the essence and propaganda principles of the right, I refer you to here and here [huge doc]. For a look at how an why Democrats truly represent the electorate, this old piece should shed some light.

    In sum, Republicans can’t govern, that won’t change. Now it’s time for Democrats to prove that they can get elected.

  7. I was unaware what a “radical” Tom Davis is, but then I guess it’s b/c of the “propaganda prowess” of the conservative movement. That’s probably the same reason why a Democrat hasn’t received a majority* of votes cast in a presidential election since 1964, which, incidentally, was also the last time Virginia went for a Dem in the presidential election.

    Maybe you should get some mainstream folks like Howard Dean, Ned Lamont, or Maxine Waters to move to Virginia to run against a radical like TD.

    *Please note that I used “majority” and not “plurality.”

  8. reminds me of the old days when Republicans nominated Senatorial candidates like Paul Trible.

  9. “That’s probably the same reason why a Democrat hasn’t received a majority* of votes cast in a presidential election since 1964”

    uhhhhh, You wanna take that back Judge?

  10. Nevertheless, since Republicans have achieved majorities 4 times in the last 7 elections (1980, 1984, 1988, 2004) to Democrats’ one in the last 8 (1976), I maintain my basic point which was, Josh’s comment that “First of all, the Democratic party itself better represents the electorate…
    Please don’t make the mistake of reinforcing the myth of a conservative majority. A small portion of the population has ever held conservative beliefs” notwithstanding, the country is in fact generally more accepting of conservative positions than liberal ones.

  11. huh? even if Clinton and Gore did not get “majorities”. The Republicans obviously got less than they did.

    How does this prove your point?

    Not to mention that Democrats pretty much dominated government at the Federal level for a large chunk of the 20th century.

    And have you looked at the most recent public opinion surveys?

    This is a silly argument to have anyway.

    These things are in constant flux, and we are in the middle of one of the biggest regional re-alignments we have seen in a long time (how many North Eastern Rs are there left?). Not to mention all the Yankees moving south (hello blue Virginia?), and the fact that post civil rights backlash politics are starting to recede.

  12. Jon, the plain and simple fact that Tom Davis has people convinced he’s a moderate because he’s slightly less of a rubberstamp of George W. Bush than, umm, Dick Cheney goes to show that Republicans aren’t going to play it straight with the facts. Their willingness to ignore the facts is why they’ll pull little arguments like implying that a Democrat hasn’t truly won a presidential election since the 60’s.

  13. Brian, I’m not implying anything. I’m saying, quite clearly, (with the admitted hiccup of Carter’s 50.1% majority in ’76) that the Democratic nominee for President has won a majority once in 40-odd years – and that very narrowly. Meanwhile, the GOP has racked up majorities in ’68, ’72, ’80, ’84, ’88, and 2004.

    I don’t think I’m ignoring facts at all. I do concede, however, that I may be engaging in wishful thinking by believing a more conservative GOP candidate would give M. Warner a tougher time than Tom Davis. Given the current situation, all the smart money’s on Warner no matter who his opponent.

  14. Judge,

    Again, what do those facts prove?

    They are statistical anomalies, they have more do with the actual candidates that were involved, for instance, Mondale, Ducacus having about the same appeal as card board; or particular issues, ie terrorism in ’04.

    So know we understand the term, “Reagan Democrats”: they where generally blue-collar Democrats who otherwise disagreed with Reagan on many issues, but still thought he would be a stronger president. It was a force of personality and charisma.

    What you are putting forward is not some analyses that we can prove where the voting public stands in the Ideological spectrum . . . that is preposterous.

  15. “the term, “Reagan Democrats”: they where generally blue-collar Democrats who otherwise disagreed with Reagan on many issues”

    You took a poll, huh? I’d love to see that data.

    “Ducacus” — huh? Is that supposed to be some kind of joke?

  16. There is data available from the pollster, Stan Greenberg, who studied the Democratic defections in 1980 and 1984. I found this report, which is from a 1986 follow-up to the original one from 1985:

    Wikipedia also had a large article on ‘Reagan Democrats’

    Took about five minutes. :)

    As for ‘Ducacus’, I figured it was just a misspelling. Did you think it was something else?

  17. “You took a poll, huh? I’d love to see that data.”

    I didn’t but there is a lot of work on the issue, here is just one summary:

    “The classic study of Reagan Democrats is probably the work of the Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg. Greenberg analyzed white ethnic voters (largely unionized auto workers) in Macomb County, Michigan, just north of Detroit. The county voted 63 percent for John F. Kennedy in 1960, but 66 percent for Reagan in 1984. He concluded that “Reagan Democrats” no longer saw Democrats as champions of their middle-class aspirations, but instead saw them as working primarily for the benefit of others: the very poor, the unemployed, African Americans.”

    And yes Ducacus, he was a joke, thats my point, his losing a Presidential election, is no indication of the country’s ideological temperature.

    Further more, he is no more of yesterday’s joke than some of the goofy losers from today’s Republican party.

    Some of them home town favs, like Jim Gilmore and George “I cant talk straight” Allen.

  18. And of course those “Reagan Democrats” sure are sleeping in the bed they made for themselves . . . the unions gutted, so on and so on.

  19. Getting a little off-topic here, but I find it very difficult to talk about which candidate is more of a conservative when I have no idea what that word even means anymore. I knew what ‘conservative’ meant in 1999 and I rather respected it. Then Bush got elected and suddenly ‘conservative’ meant massive deficits, free ponies, and a starved military that gets sent all over the world rather than a large, healthy military that stays at home.

    ‘Conservative’ used to mean the idea of a government that wields power in a conservative way and doesn’t pass laws or tell people or states what to do unless it’s truly essential and there is a strong consensus in support of it. Then suddenly the so-called conservatives decided to do away with habeus corpus when it pleases them and clamor for Constitutional amendments to prevent states from allowing gay marriage. They started wire-tapping ordinary Americans without warrants and bristling at the idea of maintaining traditional American checks and balances on power.

    I have no idea what in the hell ‘conservative’ means any more. Almost all of the conservative leaders of 8 years ago did a complete about-face and militantly supported policies that represent the antithesis of their previously stated beliefs.

    Thus I find it impossible to talk about whether Gilmore is more conservative than Davis and whether this makes him more or less likely to win an election. The terms ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ have ceased to have any real meaning to me. I’ll vote for the candidate who demonstrates an ability to actually govern and keep the machinery humming along properly while providing for adequate defense of the people and keeping government’s big snout out of my personal business. Right now that’s Democrats in Virginia. Whether they are liberal or conservative, I couldn’t tell you and I don’t care.

  20. Regarding Reagan Democrats, here is one of the “key findings” of the study Katey linked above:

    The Democratic defectors look back on the Reagan era without regret, as a period when America got “straightened out.” Reagan set the country in a “better direction.”

    If Reagan Democrats “disagreed with Reagan on many issues” (as Jon claimed above) how could they have simultaneously believed that Reagan straightened out America, and set us on a better direction? Is it really so uncomfortable to accept that a majority of Americans agreed with Reagan and supported his policies?

    Not much has changed, really. Fred Thompson could do in 2008 what Reagan did in 1980.

  21. “They started wire-tapping ordinary Americans without warrants…”

    Just your everyday average Joe’s who, like millions of other “ordinary” Americans no doubt, had a fetish for vacationing in Jalalabad, eh?

  22. JS,

    Please provide evidence that they’re not wiretapping ordinary Americans who vacation wherever the hell they like (whether that be The Outer Banks, West Bank, or the Watergate Hotel).

    Oh, but I’m just being ridiculous. No one from the Republican party would ever misuse government agencies to spy on their opposition.

    Except there’s no way to show who’s being spied on, because there’s no oversight and no due process. I’m not even saying that this [i]is[/i] going on, simply that the only way you can be sure is to take it on faith.

  23. Two things:

    1) I meant to say that you have to take it on faith that this stuff isn’t happening, since there’s no oversight or due process.

    2) I always forget which blogs take HTML and which take bbcode. Sorry about the [i][/i]. Imagine that as italic.

  24. “Please provide evidence that they’re not wiretapping ordinary Americans who vacation wherever the hell they like…”

    You know it’s impossible to prove a negative. That’s like me asking you to provide evidence to prove that Hillary Clinton’s favorite fundraiser, Norman Hsu, who incidentally didn’t show up for his bail hearing today, is not in the employ of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

  25. Well, you’ve got me there.

    But outside of proof, we still have no reason to believe that the domestic wiretapping is only being used in responsible ways, as this administration has attempted to avoid oversight at every turn. I can’t prove to you that the criminal justice system isn’t illegally wiretapping your phone because they don’t like you either, but we have systems in place to ensure that this happens as little as possible, and when it does, those involved are held responsible. Of course it’s not perfect, but there are systems in place to make it difficult to misuse. No such system exists for Bush’s various wiretapping programs.

    Sure, you can suggest that the red tape was getting in the way of useful and justifiable surveillance, even with the FISA court’s retroactive approval process, but there are many ways that this could have been changed to fit legitimate needs. Instead, we ended up with a system that invites corruption and misuse by insuring that when misuse does occur, those involved are not answerable to the people.

  26. Judge Smails,

    You’re getting bogged down on minutia there but whatever.

    I believe that the traditional American values of requiring judicial oversight for any type of search and seizure by government are enshrined in the Constitution because the founders knew that government cannot otherwise be trusted. In other words, if the executive branch of government does not submit to due process then the assumption must be that the executive is trampling the rights of the people. Judicial due process is absolutely essential for the preservation of American liberty. Without that due process we have no way of knowing what our government is actually doing and all of our other rights may be invisibly denied and destroyed.

    This is why a reasonable person with an interest in preserving American freedom must assume the worst when due process is denied. If the President says ‘don’t worry, we’re only trampling the rights of terrorists,’ why should we even consider believing him? If he was telling the truth then he would have no qualms about following the rules and allowing a judge to review what is happening. Only liars and criminals need to fear judgment.

    Pardon me my intensely conservative view of the limitations of executive power.

  27. “we still have no reason to believe that the domestic wiretapping is only being used in responsible ways.”

    You have no reason to believe it’s not either. I realize this is a sensitive subject for those who don’t like and don’t trust the Bush Administration. But it’s hardly like they’re, say, going through 900 raw FBI files of political opponents or anything of that sort.

  28. we still have no reason to believe that the domestic wiretapping is only being used in responsible ways.

    You have no reason to believe it’s not either.

    Well, we can guess that Bush’s decision to stop running the wiretap requests by FISA probably isn’t a sign that this eavesdropping is being done more responsibly than it was. And the fact that the eavesdropping has been utterly useless is another sign that it’s not being used responsibly.

  29. I thought Virgil Goode’s career was over and that my Republican brethren in the 5th would immediately ask him to leave after his remarks about the Koran being used for the oath of office by a Muslim Congressman. Obviously, there’s no other choice but to get the guy out of there before he gets Americans killed. I see a comment or two here suggesting that Goode run for Senate. That’s a joke, isn’t it? Why no speculation about who the Rs will find to replace Virgil? It’s a little early, but that’s not going to be easy. I would think that would be a matter of great interest down Waldo’s way.

  30. JS,

    You already admitted you can’t prove a negative, and yet you’re telling me that the Bush Administration isn’t “going through 900 raw FBI files of political opponents.” What leads you to believe this?

    Again, I’m not saying that this is happening, just that we wouldn’t know.

    As for the bit about not trusting the Bush Administration, you definitely have that bit right, but I wouldn’t trust any administration with unchecked power. Even if I did trust the current administration, I don’t trust every future administration who’ll have the same powers. We elect presidents who abuse their power sometimes. We’ve done it AT LEAST once in the last fifty years, and I’m sure we’ll do it again in the next fifty. We should be prepared.

  31. “900 raw FBI files” was an allusion to something that happened in the not-so-distant past when an a power-hungry, unethical administration sought to smear its opponents. Hint: It wasn’t Bush.

  32. NoVA Scout,

    You aren’t from the 5th District I take it? More likely from Northern Virginia?

    Virgil Goode has that seat for life. The Republican Party leadership in the 5th cannot remove him. He won that seat in the first place as a Democrat and then switched parties later. This isn’t a situation where you have a strong party that controls the district and gives the seat to the candidate of their choice. Virgil has his own base.

    Moreover, everyone has already completely forgotten about what he said about Rep Ellison. You have to understand that Virgil Goode says crap like that all the time. If it was ever going to hurt him then he would have been gone years and years ago. The criticisms roll off him like water off a duck’s back.

    Virgil Goode has run for a Senate nomination before. He would clearly like to move up if possible. The idea of him running for the nomination is hardly absurd. If anything, he would probably be a better standard bearer for the far right in Virginia than Jim Gilmore.

    Gilmore is kind of a joke at this point. His name is synonymous with the slogan ‘No Car Tax!’ and yet when he finished his term as governor we were all still paying the car tax. He promised to do one thing and he failed. Then he got the national GOP chairmanship, which should have been a feather in his hat except that he got chased out early by George W. Bush and everyone decided he’d done a terrible job. Cap it all off with the most sorry attempt at running for President that I have ever witnessed. Jim Gilmore’s pathetically weak campaign made Denis Kuchinich look like a powerhouse.

    Jim Gilmore has ‘loser’ written all over him. The fact that Tom Davis is a weak suburban liberal isn’t enough to hand victory to a guy that’s still cruising on an 8 year losing streak.

    Virgil Goode, on the other hand, has been winning election after election for as long as I can remember. He has an utterly unimpeachable conservative voting record in Congress. Unlike Gilmore, you don’t have to wonder how Goode will vote on national issues that never came up on a state level. Goode’s long record in Congress proves what kind of a Republican he really is.

    In every way, Virgil Goode would be a smarter pick than Jim Gilmore for the Republican wing of the Republican party in the 2008 Senate nomination contest.

  33. “900 raw FBI files” was an allusion to something that happened in the not-so-distant past when an a power-hungry, unethical administration sought to smear its opponents. Hint: It wasn’t Bush.

    Right, and my point is that there is no reason to believe that Bush isn’t doing the same thing or worse. You stated that he isn’t, but also admit you can’t prove a negative, and there’s basically no oversight, so what would make you think he’s not abusing his power?

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