Bloggers have been watching a number of Republican mass meetings and county conventions and reporting a definite trend that seems to be bucking the conventional wisdom big time. While party insiders and the media have been predicting that the Senate race will be one between Mark Warner and Jim Gilmore, the developing reality may well indicate that it’s actually going to be a matchup between Bob Marshall and Mark Warner. It’s like watching a repeat of the HB 3202 lawsuit, where these same prognosticators utterly missed that regional transportation authorities would be ruled unconstitutional. They got embarrassed then, and it’s rather likely they’re going to soon get another object lesson in the tremendous pitfalls of underestimating Bob Marshall.
Shaun Kenny is reporting that Spotsylvania County is probably going to be a 3:1 blowout for Marshall, and that Marshall leads in Stafford and Fredericksburg City. Prince William County is going for Marshall by at least 3:1 by my estimate, and Fairfax and Chesterfield is reported to be headed Bob Marshall’s way as well. Add to this the strong likelihood that Marshall will crush in Loudoun County and you have to start wondering just where Jim Gilmore is supposed to be getting his support. I haven’t done a run-down on what kind of weighted delegate block this is likely to represent, nor do I have much insight into what’s been happening at conventions other than those listed here, but this is starting to look like the development of an enormous delegate lead. Gilmore wanted a convention in order to fend off a potential challenge from Tom Davis, and it’s looking more and more that he ran headlong into an ambush by Bob Marshall.
Gilmore’s strategy here was to run strong in rural areas and hold ground in Tidewater and Northern Virginia. Northern Virginia is appearing to have turned into a debacle for Gilmore, Tidewater is almost certainly troublesome, and Marshall is at the very least encroaching on some of the rural areas. Unless there’s some big vote-rich pocket of Gilmore supporters out there to offset the momentum that Bob Marshall has rapidly established, pretty soon we’re going to have to start talking about who is going to run to replace Bob in the 13th House District, most likely against perennial loser Bruce Roemmelt. The developing dynamic here, which few seemed to identify, has utterly overwhelmed this race.
Marshall’s authorship and successful promotion of the Marriage Amendment definitely solidified his reputation with Virginia Republicans, but his successful against-the-establishment dismantling of unelected regional transportation authorities has earned Bob Marshall a level of devotion that is resonating across the state, and particularly in the two most vote-rich areas of the state. Northern Virginia and Tidewater both rejected regional transportation tax hikes. The General Assembly went ahead and approved these, with Republicans swallowing hard over a rather unpalatable compromise made worse by Governor Kaine’s amendments. Bob Marshall cried foul, the establishment said he was full of it, and to the utter shock of the establishment the Virginia Supreme Court endorsed Bob Marshall’s opinion. Conservatives grumbling about this distasteful deal were stunned and overjoyed by this unexpected (by most) last-minute rescue.
In Northern Virginia and Tidewater this is huge. We’ve seen the result in Northern Virginia which has every appearance of an absolute blowout. Tidewater is subject to the exact same dynamic, and if a blowout there is repeated, this race is pretty much over as long as the split elsewhere in the state isn’t lopsided in Gilmore’s favor. That possibility can be entirely precluded should Marshall make a very simple case: imagine what Bob Marshall, the raging iconoclast of the Virginia General Assembly would do when the next Ted Kennedy-sponsored compromise tries to get rammed through the United States Senate. If Bob Marshall was a terrific pain in Speaker Howell’s backside when he was trying to escort compromises through Richmond, what is this guy going to do with the Democratic leadership of the United States Senate the next time they try some “comprehensive reform” scheme that drives Republicans crazy?
Republicans utterly despise the performance of the United States Senate as of late, and the general electorate isn’t far behind in that low opinion. Not only can Republicans send someone there who will shake up the place, but someone who surprises us on a regular basis by winning while doing so. Sending Bob Marshall to the United States Senate is the best alternative to having a stealth bomber leave a smoking crater in the Capitol (someone should do a survey on this — the results would certainly be fascinating) and this prospect has the potential to inject Bob Marshall’s candidacy with a level of enthusiasm not seen in Republican circles since the 1990’s, or since the Barry Goldwater-inspired insurgency against Nixonian liberal Republicanism. We’re seeing that happen right now in a number of localities, and if this spreads to Tidewater as I expect, Bob Marshall has managed to entirely outmaneuver and blindside conventional wisdom once again.
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