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Posted at 5:00 AM ET, 10/15/2010

The Tea Party reshuffles Virginia's GOP deck

By Peter Galuszka

Democrat-bashing was the order of the day at the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Convention in Richmond last weekend. Yet something more important emerged: just how much the populist, conservative movement is turning Virginia’s Republican Party on its head.

Clearly, the belle of the ball was Kenneth N. Cuccinelli, Virginia’s hard-right and furiously independent attorney general, who has won national attention as a political comer capable of defying the carefully laid plans of his state’s GOP establishment.

Speaking before hundreds of screaming supporters, Cuccinelli said: “I don’t think there’d be a Tea Party if the Republican Party had been the party of limited government in the first half of this decade.”

That one probably went down a little hard for the more traditional Republicans in attendance, including former senator and governor George Allen and current Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling. Absent, perhaps not so curiously, was Republican House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Henrico County, whose penchant for pork barrel spending has earned him open Tea Party scorn.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Until not too long ago, remember, Allen had long been seen as the state’s archetypal GOP star, with his cowboy boots, “aw shucks” manner and business-first bonafides — until he self-destructed during his 2006 Senate race against Jim Webb when he was caught on video dissing a man of Indian descent. No matter. The party found a different kind of star in McDonnell, the law-and-order attorney general who had been a legislator from Virginia Beach.

Highly telegenic, McDonnell ran into one big problem as a gubernatorial candidate in 2009: The Post’s revelation of a master’s thesis he wrote in the early 1980s revealed what can charitably be called Neanderthal attitudes about gays and women. But a quick makeover successfully recast him as a moderate. The stocky, glad-handing Bolling was supposed to be the jobs guy of the partnership — and McDonnell’s natural successor as governor.

The stars have since aligned against the GOP planners. Don’t expect to see Bolling running to the center the way McDonnell did anytime soon. As Cuccinelli moves with great drama against climate science, gays, illegal immigrants and Obamacare, he is without question the potential gubernatorial candidate with the momentum on the right.

At the convention, this dynamic was plain to see. McDonnell and Bolling got cheers for supporting a constitutional amendment to let states nullify federal laws they don’t like, but it was nothing like Cuccinelli’s reception. The Tea Party convention crowd, with its Patrick Henry garb, “Guns Save Lives” stickers and openly toted .45-caliber automatic pistols, is Cuccinelli’s natural base, and it is organized in Virginia like it’s never been organized before.

It’s not just Cuccinelli who’s gaining. Another obvious potential beneficiary is Corey A. Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, who pushed through a county-level anti-immigration law designed to force lower-income immigrants from Prince William.

Stewart was manning a small booth for his “Virginia Rule of Law” movement, which is meant to take the Prince William approach statewide. Stewart has said that the county’s initiative was used as a template by Arizona when it famously adopted anti-illegal-immigration policies such as requiring police to check the citizenship status of anyone they stop. He admitted to me that Hispanic groups are not happy with his movement but insisted that “it isn’t racist.” Stewart’s tough-guy stance resonates with the Tea Partyers, and at the convention there was talk that he might make a better candidate against Webb in 2012 than would Allen in a rematch.

At their core, such sentiments reflect current economic frustrations. They are also making the reputations of politicians with a knack for the politics of resentment. The question is, do Cuccinelli and Stewart have positive ideas for addressing the state’s more pressing problems, such as its crumbling infrastructure, insecure jobs and inadequate education standards?

Take heart, Bill Bolling: Those questions will remain long after the gleeful Richmond Tea Party fades from memory.

Peter Galuszka blogs at Bacon's Rebellion. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Peter Galuszka  | October 15, 2010; 5:00 AM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Local blog network, Va. Politics, Virginia  
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Comments

I can’t wait. Taxes only for defense! No more public school system. No more social security. No more unemployment insurance. No Obamacare. No more minimum wage. No more government regulation or oversight. Not needed. Let things fall and fail as they may. You don’t like something, just don’t use it. Everyone will fend for themselves – the strongest will survive. That is the way God the Almighty intended it. So it is said, so it will be written. Go Tea Party Go!

Posted by: kparc | October 15, 2010 6:40 AM | Report abuse

I would BET not one person was carrying an "AUTOMATIC PISTOL". Don't write what you don't know.

Posted by: flyboyed | October 15, 2010 7:32 AM | Report abuse

kparc wrote: I can’t wait. Taxes only for defense! No more public school system. No more social security. No more etc etc...

kparc, do you do realize that what you have written could be a textbook definition of a failed state?

Posted by: gposner | October 15, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Ah, so many to hate...gays, immigrants both illegal and legal, climate scientists, liberal-minded folks, anyone who identifies as democrat, poor folks without healthcare...so litte time!

Posted by: MIndfulPerson | October 15, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Do anything you can America to find work in a workless economy and pay the Democrats rising income taxes....because 30 million illegals and their anchor babies are depending on you to give them free OBamacare and food stamps and education and housing subsidies and welfare etc etc.

Loving thy neighbor as thyself doesn't give thy neighbor a arrogant demanding right to steal everything you have worked for all your life to build, to save and to contribute to the good of a soveriegn nation. In November, let us all say adios to the Democrats, the GOP liberals and the illegals!

Posted by: Patriot12 | October 15, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

I can't wait until their tea party compatriots start cutting those hated federal government jobs of all those people who work in Washington and pay taxes in Virginia, it's about time they got a taste of what it's like to live in ghost towns like us in the Rust Belt.

Posted by: AverageJane | October 15, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

I can't wait until their tea party compatriots start cutting those hated federal government jobs of all those people who work in Washington and pay taxes in Virginia, it's about time they got a taste of what it's like to live in ghost towns like us in the Rust Belt.

Posted by: AverageJane | October 15, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

I can't wait until their tea party compatriots start cutting those hated federal government jobs of all those people who work in Washington and pay taxes in Virginia, it's about time they got a taste of what it's like to live in ghost towns like us in the Rust Belt.

Posted by: AverageJane | October 15, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

This is a virtual reality world! If you claim to be conservative (whatever that means) you can be conservative, you be a defender of freedom while you stand back and allow volunteers take the bullets and IED's, you can be fiscally responsible by just not paying the bill for it, you can be for jobs and growth by cutting capital gains taxes down to nothing causing jobs to disappear by the millions just like they did after the last 2 reductions, you can be for smaller government because the smaller economy that results from supply side economics can't pay for a larger one.

Posted by: tigman_2 | October 17, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

I've lost track of how many of the corporate-sponsored TeaBaller leaders and candidates have gotten caught taking government welfare and defaulting on their loans. Just a bunch of deadbeats who don't want to pay ANY taxes...while sucking the teat of America dry. Tea Party...nothing but a rebranding of the now insane Republican Party in a desperate attempt to remove the Bush stink.

Posted by: wilder5121 | October 18, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Most Americans are fiscally conservative.
Many people did not realize how fiscally conservative they are until they saw the Damage Pelosi/Reid/OBAMA are doing.....
Second year now, for over $1 TRILLION debt.
Democrats are not only Dividing this country, but their policy is putting us in dire danger, making us so fiscally weak that we're vulnerable.
And Obama's negligence to enforce existing immigration laws and fully secure our borders is making us vulnerable from a national security standpoint as well.

Posted by: ohioan | October 19, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

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