I’ve been chewing over the news of Virgil Goode’s (potential) candidacy against Rep. Tom Perriello for the past 36 hours. Goode has filed to run, although he told The Hill: “I’m filing that because a few people have sent me donations.” (Translation: “I’m thinking about running, and I’ve raised some money to that end.”) I think that this is pretty good news for Perriello. Here’s what I think is at work here.
For starters, Goode doesn’t know what else to do with his life. He went to college, went to law school, and got handed a state senate seat. He did that for a while, and then took over L.F. Payne’s seat in Congress when he retired. Goode has spent the overwhelming majority of his adult life in office, and I don’t think he’s got the faintest idea how to not be a politician. And politician without an office is like a kiss without a squeeze.
I suspect that Goode is also wary of talk of other Republicans running for “his” seat. The solution is to file, while claiming that it’s just to keep up with popular demand and to stay within the law. He’s able to clearly mark the candidacy as his, but not actually commit to running. It’s one thing for some young pup to step up and run against a freshman Democrat; it’s another to implicitly challenge Virgil Goode for the seat.
It’s no mean feat for a defeated officeholder to regain his old office. Once Goode lost, it was safe for folks to start saying that they never liked him in the first place, talking about how badly-run that his campaign was, saying that he just wasn’t good for the party. Now, unless that politician is clearly done for, that’s a bit like telling your heartbroken friend that you always hated her ex-boyfriend anyway—what if they get back together? If Goode runs again, some folks will need to change their tune (again), support Rep. Perriello, or just stay out of it altogether. I suspect the latter would be the most popular option among many Republicans.
Goode is the sort of anachronism who gets reelected to term after term in Congress, and nobody ever understands why. (Exhibit A: Strom Thurmond.) Goode’s problem is that those guys just can’t get elected without already being incumbents. It’s a matter of inertia, and the straight-up power of incumbency. (Franking privileges, handing out oversized checks—which the stimulus bill will give Perriello in spades—constituent service, etc.) Lacking that, Goode is just an angry middle-aged guy who talks funny and hates Muslims and Mexicans. And, hell, we’ve got a thousand of them in the district—that’s Goode’s base—that’s hardly a qualification for office.
I think Goode is probably the best-case challenger for Perriello.* Of the Republicans in the district who could potentially challenge him, it’s tough to summon a candidate who could actually get nominated who would be worse than Goode. Better still, Goode will appear viable to folks outside of the district, and may well find himself receiving contributions from Republicans around the state and the nation who are looking to win back a seat in a race that was so tight last time around. So the race becomes a money sink for Goode.
Let’s see if anybody else steps up to the bat. But I think Goode has just cleared the field, and I couldn’t be much happier about it.
* With the caveat that I didn’t think Perriello had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning last year’s race. I spent about six hours hunting crows after the election, along with my brother, so as to eat one as penance, but never did get one of the little bastards. They’re smart, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.