Norm Leahy has been ruminating productively on the renewed calls for RPV chairman Jeff Frederick to step down, first on noticing that it’s turned into a McDonnell/Frederick battle of wills, and second on the question of who should replace Frederick. I haven’t thought any about the effects of Bob McDonnell’s support of ousting Frederick, but I am particularly interested in the now what? aspect of getting rid of him.
The only two names being bandied out to replace Frederick, Norm points out, are Paul Harris and Tom Davis. Harris is sort of the Leslie Byrne of the Virginia Republicans, only he just talks about running for things. Given Republicans’ sudden interest in black leadership, what with President Obama, Harris might benefit from the same sort of affirmative action that benefited Michael Steele wen he sought to become RNC chair. But Harris has a bit of a handicap—his patron, lifelong friend Halsey Minor, appears to be in bad financial position, and may not be able to provide Harris with the financial support that perhaps he might have been expecting for his next run for office.
And Tom Davis didn’t even bother running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, once they settled on a caucus rather than a primary, since he that would go to the farthest-right candidate, which Davis certainly was not. (As it turned out, that wasn’t true—fiscally conservative Gov. Jim Gilmore defeated socially conservative Del. Bob Marshall by a fraction of a percent.) It’s tough to envision how he could win the chairmanship. I don’t know much about him—whether he’d be a good fundraiser, whether he could salvage the collapsing party, if he has the personality for the job—but ideologically, he’d be an enormous improvement for the RPV. In Peter Baker’s October profile of Davis in the New York Times—a really enjoyable read—it’s clear that he’s a guy who totally understands what ails both Republicans and the country. Though Norm laments that Davis is disdainful of every part of Virginia other than upstate, that might just put Republicans on the same track that Democrats seem to be on.
But tossing around names is a far cry from an actual plan for replacing Frederick. The RPV seems to keep tossing out chairs to replace them with the shiniest choice—John Hager lasted less than a year, Ed Gillespie just six months, and Kate Obenshain Griffin made it a surprising three years. With the Republican State Central Committee meeting to consider Frederick’s fate in just under a month, there’s not a whole lot of time to gin up a decent replacement. As a hiring practice, this approach isn’t really working out.
I’m feeling better and better about my $100 bet with Shaun Kenney, in which I wagered that Frederick would seek reelection to his seat in the House of Delegates. It’s tough to envision him simultaneously losing his chairmanship and giving up his House of Delegates seat.
Expect some wild rumors, accusations, and whisper campaigns over the next month, but the real fireworks come on April 4, when the Republican State Central Committee meets.