Bob Marshall’s very narrow loss to Jim Gilmore should produce a shock wave that will blast through the Republican establishment and put “moderate” Republicans on notice that further attempts to marginalize or sideline Marshall could bear a very significant price. Coming out of seemingly nowhere and running against a popular and respected former Governor in a state-wide race, only to lose by a mere sixty-six weighted votes out of over ten thousand, Bob Marshall has firmly established himself as a major political force in Virginia Republican politics. He is likely the new standard-bearer in Virginia for the conservative movement, and perhaps the most influential among the few that can credibly claim that title.
In the aftermath of the November, 2007 elections it became ‘beat up on Bob Marshall year’ for the Republican leadership. Leaders casually dismissed his concerns about HB3202, ignored his criticism of Speaker Howell, and refused him the Chairmanship of the Immigration Commission, which by tradition he was entitled to lead. In the face of this, Marshall beat the Republican leadership in the courts by having the taxing authority of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority declared unconstitutional, waged some battles against the Republican leadership in the General Assembly, winning a few and losing others, and watched the Immigration Commission devolve into a sad farce under the leadership of Senator Watkins who has come out as somewhat of an illegal alien apologist in vindication of Marshall’s predictions. His response was to take on the establishment head-on by challenging Jim Gilmore and exceeded the expectations of the establishment and their pundits, not by a little, but by a whole lot.
As much as some hoped that Bob Marshall would simply go away, Marshall instead got in their face even more. Don’t expect that to end anytime soon.
It’s going to be really hard to sideline Bob Marshall now without suffering severe political consequences. Not only are there lots of Bob Marshall supporters all across the state now, but they’re probably among the most passionate and dedicated activists in Virginia, judging from how they acted at the convention today. This group dominates the social conservatives, particularly the pro-life crowd, who have a unique ability within the party to make life utterly miserable for an elected official. The anti-illegal alien activists and fiscal conservatives make this coalition even larger, and more potentially troublesome. Bob Marshall can credibly claim to be a spokesman for this constituency, and when he speaks now, he speaks with their passion and numbers behind him. While it might have been easy for Republican leaders to dismiss Bob Marshall before, from now on out such behavior risks setting this important part of the party base aflame.
A year ago, Bob Marshall was a curious oddity in Virginia politics, a conservative leader who would rather have everyone hate him than compromise his principles. He is no longer an oddity. He is the voice of Virginia’s Republican future. When that realization sinks in within the compromise-on-anything Republican leadership of Virginia, this could cause a seismic shift in Republican politics, and completely transform the political landscape in Virginia.
It’s about time.
The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.