The Republican Party of Virginia is having their state convention this weekend. I’m excited about it. The theme of this blog for the past few years has been that, given a choice, Virginia Republicans will always choose wrongly. Not wrong in hindsight, but wrong like should I pick up some dinner on the way home, or drive off a bridge? They’re presented with two choices this time around: who to make RPV chair and who to nominate as their candidate for U.S. Senate.
John Hager, the incumbent and former lieutenant governor, is a nice guy. He’s got the gravitas and the experience to try to hold together his party, and he’s clearly slowed its collapse, as I expected. He’s only had the job for a year. His challenger is the far-right Del. Jeff Frederick. He’s polarizing, inexperienced, and kind of a tool. Though Hager’s reelection seemed a cinch a few months ago, Frederick seems to have a real chance of winning. That would surely seal Republicans’ fate as a minority party in Virginia come next year’s elections.
The other decision that Republicans are presented with is considerably less consequential. They’ll be selecting between Gov. Jim Gilmore and far-far-far-right Del. Bob Marshall for the nomination to run against Gov. Mark Warner for Sen. John Warner’s seat. Short of a dead-hooker-or-live-boy scenario, Republicans may as well be nominating Mickey Mouse. Gilmore is way to the right fiscally, having left the state in a financial shambles at the end of his term as governor (apparently convinced that was a good thing), while Marshall is way to the right socially, being fundamentally opposed to sex for any purpose other than baby-makin’. The nomination of either would be terrible for the party. The citizens of Virginia well remember how badly Gilmore screwed up localities’ coffers, and will rightly interpret Gilmore’s nomination as an endorsement of Gilmorenomics on the part of Virginia Republicans. And giving Bob Marshall a platform is always a mistake, because nobody knows what’s going to come out of that man’s mouth (including, I suspect, Bob Marshall), and nobody but the dwindling base is going to like what he’s got to say. At best, these guys will go unnoticed by the public. At worst, they’ll be noticed.
This convention will certainly be a net loss for the RPV, but it may prove to be a staggering loss if Frederick defeats Hager. I know who I’m rooting for.