Every election cycle Democrats search far and wide for the most “progressive” candidates to take on Delegate Bob Marshall. This year they tapped John Bell to be their sacrificial lamb, whose real purpose is to keep Democrat homosexual activists happy that Democrats are challenging the author of the Marriage Amendment. Not challenging Marshall would seriously displease what the Democrats believe is a vital demographic segment of their electorate and a strong source of campaign funds for other races, but it’s largely political theater designed to hold Democrats together. This year, as in years previous, the outcome isn’t in any doubt.
Bell is a newcomer to the district, who was entirely unknown before he chose to ran. As usual in this race, the homosexual lobbies of “Equality Virginia” and the “Virginia Partisans Gay & Lesbian Club” were major campaign contributors and a source of volunteers for a campaign that tried to discuss homosexual issues only in the friendly venues of fundraisers. The rest of Bell’s campaign has been pretty meat and potato, but the core support has always been the homosexual “rights” activists who want to see Marshall replaced with someone who will vote to overturn the Marriage Amendment and enact special civil protections for homosexuals. This is the Roemmelt campaign of 2007, just with a new face and a new name.
As usual Bob Marshall is the underdog in campaign funds, which he more than makes up for with a dedicated volunteer base. Marshall’s independent streak, which enamors him to many concerned that the Republican leadership in Richmond often tries to sell out principle for political expediency, is bolstered by his successful lawsuit to overturn unelected taxation authorities a few years ago and a voting record that conservatives are usually extremely pleased with. Bob’s got a good record to run on in this district, leaving Bell with the tough challenge of coming up with policy differences that aren’t going to start setting troublesome fires for him, and that’s a tough job. As a result, while Marshall can talk about concrete votes his constituents like, Bell is somewhat forced to talk in generalities.
In this district Democrats have tended to focus on Loudoun County which comprises about a third of the district, and in years past they’ve been somewhat competitive there. Prince William County accounts for about two-thirds of this district, which has usually split about 60% for Marshall and contains some of the most conservative precincts in Prince William County. The usual dynamic here is for Republicans to drive turnout in the more conservative Prince William County where most of the votes are, and just swamp the results. There are some precincts in this district that have tremendous turnouts and break quite a bit above 60% for Republicans that pretty much define the results of the elections here, even in challenging times for Republicans such as 2007.
Only this year Republicans have a pretty strong tailwind which will likely skew the turnout in favor of Republicans, leaving Bell with nothing to really grasp at as he struggles to find a way to win here. He doesn’t have the strength in the part of the district that decides these elections, he doesn’t have a popular candidate like Obama running at the top of the ticket, and Deeds is tremendously unpopular in the precincts that are going to have the highest turnout. Perhaps more of a driver to the polls is the Attorney General race where Ken Cuccinelli is somewhat of an adopted son among the large and very active Catholic and evangelical communities. These folks are energized and extremely excited they’re finally going to have a chance to cast a ballot for Ken Cuccinelli, and right along with every vote for Ken is a vote for Bob Marshall.
To a large degree this election should track the Cuccinelli-Wagner race. Anyone splitting their votes on these two races seriously needs their head examined, as the delegates are virtual clones of the Attorney General candidates. Unfortunately, not all voters are often quite as well informed, so it’s likely that Marshall will trail the Cuccinelli numbers by a little bit, but there’s plenty of wriggle room to give away here. This district is going to perform for Ken Cuccinelli like it was his home district, and may deliver for him the best results in all of Northern Virginia.
Ken is polling at +16 state-wide in two polls released today, and this district is likely going to overperform the state-wide numbers by about four points. That puts Bob Marshall in a good position to take Bell to the woodshed with a thumping of about 18 points, which isn’t a bad follow-on to his thumping of Bruce Roemmelt 58-42 in 2007. Other prognosticators aren’t favoring Bob Marshall this heavily, but I haven’t seen any of them take into account the effect of Ken Cuccinelli on this race and what happened in 2007 when the headwinds were in Marshall’s face. The margin could go as high as +20 for Bob Marshall here, making this race perhaps the worst investment far-left Democrats have made in an election ever.
In the 13th District, Republicans are going to be mighty happy a week from now.
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