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Did George Allen Lose His Base Too?

No question George Allen lost the center last week. The arc of his campaign and the exit polls both point to the same reason he's a one-term senator: The polls say 60 percent of independents in Virginia voted for Jim Webb, driven by frustration over the war in Iraq and new questions about Allen's character.

But some in Allen's traditional base are now arguing that they too felt abandoned by the senator and stayed home because he strayed from his longstanding appeal to hard conservatives as someone who stressed "Virginia values"--strict positions on social issues and a comfort with symbols of the Old South.

"Does anyone think George Allen could have used our votes yesterday?" Brag Bowling, a commander of Virginia's Sons of Confederate Veterans, wrote to his members last week in an e-mail. Bowling tells me that Allen's efforts to reach toward the center backfired, making him appear to his base as a panderer who had gone weak in the spine.

Here's Bowling's reasoning:

Anyone who does not think Allen's transparent pandering and joining of the NAACP as a life member hurt his reelection, they are simply out to lunch. Joining the NAACP is tantamount to joining the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and I guarantee that this irritated a lot of Republicans. His trifling with the Battle Flag irritated my group but also irritated a lot of Virginians who are simply proud of the state's history and their ancestral ties. A series of Southern politicians have lost office over similar issues (Roy Barnes and David Beasley for instance) and by picking unnecessary fights. This can cause a severe erosion in your political base. Allen (unlike Hillary Clinton) decided to run for President before winning in his own state. Bad decision. He now joins the ranks of Mark Earley and Jerry Kilgore, Republicans who somehow forgot who they were, where they were, and who brought them to the dance.

I agree that Allen's missteps in this campaign pushed him off his traditional message and manner. Suddenly, voters who thought they knew George Allen saw someone they did not recognize. But I don't see in the year-on-year election results any huge drop in Allen's support among conservative voters. Still, in an election this close, it wouldn't take all that many decisions to stay home or to support Webb--after all, a former Republican, a military man, and now likely the most conservative Democrat in the Senate--to have turned this election.

Bowling believes the Republicans need to focus more strictly on their base:

"Three straight statewide defeats. The base erodes because the candidates are squishy on issues important to their base. I thought joining the NAACP was a horrible tactical move. What conservative Republican joins a group like that? There are other ways of reaching minorities with your message. It was pandering, plain and simple. No political gain was realized. If you remember, Allen led the lynching resolution in Congress. Was that sincere? Was riding around Prince Edward County a bold strategic move? These transparent stunts are so plainly obvious that I would imagine a lot of blacks also wonder what he was up to."

Well, I understand that some of Allen's base may have been alienated, but sorry, my prescription for the state's Republican Party does not entail further efforts to make state's rights activists and Confederate romantics feel catered to; rather, I'll argue that the future of the GOP in Virginia lies in pulling their heads out of the sand and recognizing the changing demographics especially of the outer suburbs of the Washington area. Democrats will continue to pick off seats in the legislature and hold the governorship as long as Republicans present themselves as racially callous, oblivious to traffic and growth issues, unwilling to return a reasonable share of state resources to the economic engine of northern Virginia and fixated on social and moral questions where government has a dubious role at best.

George Allen's out of state advisors really believed that getting the base all riled up about gay marriage would do the trick. But while Virginia is a socially conservative state where there was never any doubt that a same-sex marriage ban would pass, it is also a modern suburban state where most people have ever more fluid definitions of family and morality, and a place where many people make decisions about their lives based on convenience and comfort. I don't particularly agree with those values and priorities, but any party that ignores them paves the way for failure.

By Marc Fisher |  November 14, 2006; 7:32 AM ET
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But I don't think joining the NAACP was such a smart move; it alienated some of the base and did nothing for him with minorities and moderates/independents. There were other ways such as making and running on a record. Basically, he was looking for 2008 and forgot about 2006. Plus, how does a politician on the stump figure out that insulting an opposing campaign operative with a video camera, no matter what you call him, is a good idea? He just didn't run a smart campaign.

Posted by: Stick | November 14, 2006 8:35 AM

Dear Confederates:
You lost.
Get over it.
The Victors

Posted by: Bills Fan | November 14, 2006 9:05 AM

So he lost because he didn't cater (enough) to his racist base? Sounds good to me. Go Dems!

Posted by: Melt | November 14, 2006 9:23 AM

Sheeesh. Did the guy you quoted remember to take off the hood before talking? Those things can muffle your voice. It was probably hard enough to get the quote right over roar of the burning cross.

Posted by: John | November 14, 2006 10:09 AM

Every political pursuasion, interest group or other narrow interest has spokesfolks who claim every political candidate either won or lost due to the 2% of the vote that their interest provided or did not provide to the candidates. Politicians would be wise to ignore the spin, and I'm sure most of the successful ones do.

Posted by: BuddyK | November 14, 2006 10:12 AM

As long as the Republican Party caters to the likes of the pure RoVA Brag Bowling, they will never succeed in their national goal of making their party more "diverse."

George Allen joined joined the NAACP? Come on, that sounds like a rejected Webb attack ad!

Posted by: A Hardwick | November 14, 2006 10:23 AM

Agreed, BuddyK.

When was the last time the SCV believes it was important enough to sway an election? When did they take a break from playing with the Civil War battle reenactors to get politically active?

Most people in the middle don't care whether a candidate is a member of the NAACP, the ACLU, or any other such group that uses constitutionally protected rights to advance their constituents' cause. The SCV's logic might sound good to its own members and like-minded citizens, but I doubt it captures the mood of the vast majority of the commonwealth's electorate.

George Allen, aka Senator Sunraider, lost this race because Webb and others put him on the defensive, where he remained -- plain and simple. He lost his cool and never hit his stride, and that's why he lost -- not because of so-called "pandering."

Posted by: dirrtysw | November 14, 2006 10:29 AM

This guy from the SCV is insane. It hurts as a Republican to have people like this in the party.

Posted by: Jaydees | November 14, 2006 10:45 AM

Duh did you all forget the idiot Allen beat for his seat? Come on Chuckie Robb, the coke head and womanizer. Dont you all remember Robb wanted us to believe he only got a massage from a hot blond in a hotel room. Either he thinks we are stupid to believe this or he is stupid ebcasue all he got was a massage. A business owner friend of the family made a delivery to Chuck's place in Mclean when he was still in office. When a Senator buys something from your business you deliver it personally. Robb answered the door in his bday suit.

Allen is a baffoon as are the members of the VA chapter of Morons of the Confederacy. He was the lesser of two evils in 2000 and for me in 2006. There are no smart Marines so I just couldnt vote for the worse SECNAV ever Webb.

And the only reason Robb was still around in 2000 is because the idiot Republicans put Ollie North the psycho up to run against Robb. I voted for Wilder that time.

What folks forget is VA is a Republican candidate has to move to center to win in VA and it ahs been that way for last 10 years or so. That is why Warner and Kaine won. The Republican candiate was just to far right. And yeah I voted for Kaine and Warner. Look at Kaine and Webb they are more to the center than the left.

2008 will be interesting VA Mark Warner against Tom Davis! Davis more to center than the Morons of the Confederacy would like so we shall see.

Posted by: Vaherder | November 14, 2006 10:47 AM

What, precisely, does this post ad to any political discourse? Do you really think the the Sons of the Confederacy has a get-out-the-vote operation, let alone one that matters? Or is this a really cheap way to rile up some folks and generate some posts to your "web log"? Once again, Marc, you appear to be obsessed with tabloidesque, us v. them stories/gripes that are designed only to generate argument or outrage, but are totally irrelevant (and in this case about a week late too the dig-a-political-grave for George Allen show). How about this for outrage: You are a whiner and a complainer and are damn lucky that the Post feels the need to pay you for the drivel you produce because it does no good to anyone except to bring out the worst in people by prompting them to whine, complain or otherwise reinforce feelings of victimization or alienation. Or, in your case, self-righteousness.

Posted by: Arlington | November 14, 2006 10:59 AM

I think this from the article says it all:

"Democrats will continue to pick off seats in the legislature and hold the governorship as long as Republicans present themselves as racially callous, oblivious to traffic and growth issues, unwilling to return a reasonable share of state resources to the economic engine of northern Virginia and fixated on social and moral questions where government has a dubious role at best."

Allen was guilty of all these things above as a Govenor and a Senator. It was just time for someone like Webb to remind us of that fact.

The RoVA Republicans are a greedy lot. They are happy to take our tax dollars and not return enough to help correct our traffic and other problems. In addition they are living in the past. The South will never rise again. The South that they stand for is a cartoon vision and not reality. Mr . Allen was a true RoVA who panderered to the center. The RoVA's did not like the center moving direction of his campaign and the folks in the center saw him for what he realy was.

Thank goodness he lost. We might have had to listen to him running for President next summer. Just imagine another frat boy idiot in the White House!

Posted by: JCW | November 14, 2006 11:03 AM

What exactly is your problem? If you don't like Marc's views, that's one thing, but your post bordered on an unnecessary personal attack. Just stop reading! Your posting is the only whine and complaint I can see.

I am interested in the information provided in Marc's blog because it makes me aware of things that may not otherwise be available. His post the other day about public television is an example of this.

Thanks Marc. I may not always agree with you, but I appreciate your reporting.

Posted by: To Arlington | November 14, 2006 11:52 AM

The Sons of Confederate Veterans are justified in feeling betrayed by Allen. After all, this was a guy who, as recently as the mid 90s, posed with a big ol' grin on his face with memeber of the neo-Confederate group, the Council of Conservative Citizens, the successor organization to the notorious White Citizens Council of the Civil Rights years. If you hobnob with those guys socially, then turn around and join the NAACP, your erstwhile supporters have a reason to feel played.

But I disagree with Marc that Webb will naturally be a conservative. He ran pretty much as a firebreathing populist, against the war, for health care for all citizens, and an increase in the minimum wage.

It's going to be very interesting to see what Webb gets up to in the Senate, especially when he has a natural ally like Jon Tester, the burly, crew cut new Senator from Montana who is a farmer by trade and who espouses a distrust and dislike of big corporations and globalization.

Posted by: Jack | November 14, 2006 12:11 PM

Vaherder: In light of the Ted Haggard "massage," the Chuck Robb "massage" really doesn't looks so bad anymore, does it?

Posted by: Loudoun Voter | November 14, 2006 12:20 PM

Wow! Although I don't agree w/ them, I can understand how people might see the ACLU as a radical organization. But the NAACP? Good grief! Could there be an interest group organization more concerned about ensuring a place for its members in the mainstream of American life?

Mr. Bowling should try loosening his "ancestral ties" and sticking his toe in that stream too.

Posted by: THS | November 14, 2006 12:22 PM

Webb a firebreathing populist. Hmmm? That conjures up quite an image.

Posted by: Dee-El | November 14, 2006 12:22 PM

George Allen's loss lies in his acquiescence to the R N C. Allen got Kilgored. He who lived by the Bush, died by the Bush.
Ed Gilespie is a fund raiser / political operative of Bush Inc. I remember his annoying telemarketers. I did not know that Allen ran to join the NAACP, how RNC! Blacks know that the civil right movement was not started by, nor for many years, supported by the NAACP. What black Americans expect is respect and sensitivity to their concerns. Ironically many blacks in southern Virginia like George Allen.
Allen panicked in so many ways. He lost his bearings. He needs to go back to his family, and patch things. He needs to have a dialog with the South Asians and Indian communities and talk with them. I hope he will take some time off and maybe do a sabbatical in a new area of knowledge. May I suggest cultural geography? Then, he can return to the U.S. Senate.
Meanwhile the Republicans have to clean their corruption, and do a proper job of studying the transportation issues of Northern Virginia. Marc, remember the mess I told you about in the 50th District?
One starting point is the 12 page paper Marc Fisher posted yesterday.
Then, take the necessary steps to fix Virginia's transportation problems.

Posted by: Peter Roach | November 14, 2006 12:29 PM

Sadly this guy is a part of the Republican base and they are going to find out what the Dems are still learning. A flawed nominating process, driven by party activists that puts a lot of emphasis on early races in states that don't really represent the country will produce a nominee that will find it difficult to win the general election.

Posted by: WC | November 14, 2006 12:56 PM

Mr. Roach, Mr. Roach!!, your analysis of the past election (mostly), your comments on the National Association for the ADVANCEMENT of COLORED PEOPLE. Founded in 1915 by, among others, the most pre-eminent Afro-American of his time. W.E.B. Dubois, the NAACP attacked the legal underpinings of Jim Crow form its beginings. The only organizations supporting racial progress until the 1940s (when the Congress of Racial Equality was founded) was the NAACP and the Communist Party USA. It was Thurgood Marshall, Head NAACP Attoney, who won the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. That decision, it could be argued, emboldened Afro-Americans to be more assertive in their rights. For "real Southerners" and "real Virginians" like Bowling the NAACP ranks second behind Dr. King on its enemies list. Perhaps, you are confusing the NAACP with the Urban League (thats another story).

Posted by: A Hardwick | November 14, 2006 2:07 PM

George Allen lost the election because he proved unworthy of the job.

Regardless of his record as governor or as a one-term senator, or his racism, real or imagined, the "macaca" statement was a serious error in judgement. And his waffling about his heritage showed a character flaw.

Posted by: CEEAF | November 14, 2006 4:00 PM

Mr. Hardwick: Sorry to question your revisionist history, but the NAACP was not founded by DuBois. Instead, it was started by whites, the same whites who booted DuBois for his communist background in the 1930s. Likewise, it wasn't until the 1970s that the NAACP had it's first black President. In other words, for about six decades they were all white. You call that representing the interests of the black community? I don't think so...

As far as Allen losing his base, Allen could have learned more from the SCV's past record than one might think. In Virginia, the SCV has been active in fighting for its issues, and played a significant role in the defeat of Mark Early in 2001. Surprising, huh? Yes, they supported Mark Warner -- that evil SCV that you all are talking about supported Democrat poster boy Mark Warner. And in return, Mark Warner signed a proclamation for Lee-Jackson Day at the request of the SCV for the four years he was in office! (gasp!)

Likewise, the SCV did not come out to help Kilgore in 2005, and for the most part, left Allen floundering. So who did many of these SCV members support? Democrats!

Remember folks, these guys have been Dems for a lot longer than you have... their ancestors were Democrats, and so are they. You may not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater so quickly.

Posted by: Georgia BlueDawg | November 15, 2006 10:13 AM

Marc, sorry to burst your bubble (and everyone else's in the media), but Webb is no conservative. Read his article in today's Wall Street Journal -

Here's a quote:
"The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes."

Posted by: Chuck | November 15, 2006 11:10 AM

"I felt my vote"

As a Virginian, in viewing the vote numbers as they came in, I felt my family's vote for Webb along with that of my friends. Check the Webb / Allen numbers of this Southside Virginia City.

The point I see in this article is that Sons of Confederate Veterans were fortunate that Allen did a lot of big mouth talking, Etc. The consequences were that many felt Allen misused the historical flag of their heritage to get out of his OTHER blabbering goofs, and then these "Sons" voted for the real Virginian, Webb. Mr. Bowling seemed to be describing the level of "pandering" by Senator Allen. My Black friends saw right through it! DID YOU??

Possibly some above feel that their vote is the only one that counts! Ex-Senator Allen's folks thought that too.

The Virginia Division of the SCV, and the National headquarters of the SCV have condemned any racist activity propagated by anyone. So do I!

Webb joined the NAACP after Allen. So what?

The only thing wrong with the historical Confederate Flag is that it is misused by some ugly racists just like our current American Flag is used by them today also. Unfortunately, some people still think "guns kill people." How stupid! Go after the real "murderers of our American history", and leave my family alone. I say this to Allen, and to you.

Martin Luther King had a dream! Like we are, please help others work on the associated parts of it for a better future! We have some serious problems in this country, and it is time for some healing so that together we can better combat larger external problems. Problems that could be the death of us and our future generations.

As for the genius above who said, you lost, get over it -- I share this:

"The Confederate soldiers were our kinfolk and our heroes. We testify to the country our enduring fidelity to their memory. We commemorate their valor and devotion. There were some things that were not surrendered at Appomattox. We did not surrender our rights in history, nor was it one of the conditions of surrender that unfriendly lips should be suffered to tell the story of that war or that unfriendly hands should write the epitaphs of our Confederate dead. We have a right to teach our children the true history of that war, the causes that led up to it, and the principles involved."
--Senator Edward W. Carmack, 1903

Another Real Virginian

Posted by: Petersburg | November 15, 2006 12:20 PM

Man, what a bunch of hypocritcal sissyfied whiny racists on this blog.

Yes the SCV helped very much in sending Allen to defeat. No the SCV is not the Klan so stop your freekin lying.

Simply ask EX Ga Gov Roy Barnes if it was the former State Flag and the SCV's wrath that got him booted.

EX Ga Lt Gov Mark Taylor helped Barnes remove the flag and Ga voters helped remove Taylor last week.

EX Mo Senator Jim Talent showed no talent in being respectful to Confederate Veterans and their symbols, but Mo voters showed talent in replacing him last week.

Ask EX Mo Gov Bob Holden if it was the removal of Confederate Flags off Confederate Graves in Confederate Cemeteries that did him in.

EX Tn Rep Harold Ford Jr lost, and a large grass roots effort was done to inform voters he was anti Confederate.

Those were just a few of the enlightened liberal left PC politicos who have bashed the Confederate Flag and lost their jobs. Here are some more:

EX Suffolk Mayor Bobby Ralph

EX- Alabama Gov. Jim Folsom

EX-South Carolina Gov. David Beasley

EX-South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges

EX-Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove

EX-Alabama Gov. Don Seigelman

EX-Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate Mark Early

EX-Presidential Candidate Dick Gephardt

EX-Presidential Candidate Howard Dean

Posted by: GeorgiaFlagger | November 15, 2006 4:05 PM

What is it that ya'll don't understand about math? read closely
-(minus) 5000 George
+ (plus 5000 Jim
= (equals 10,000 (ten thousand ) vote swing.With a 9000 vote margin of victory,it's easy to understand(for us Southerners anyway)

Posted by: Grayson | November 15, 2006 4:09 PM

Through out the country and certainly in the South elections are decided by a few hundred or a few thousand votes now days.

In elections from little county supervisors to U.S Senators the campaign managers, think, their the first one to think of this GREAT idea for winning minority votes. Stomp on Confederate Heritage, impress the blacks and win the minority vote. Again and again this is what they do. The Black don't buy it. However, it does get a back-lash everytime. Not only do they not get the minority vote they give the Heritage Community the chance to make the difference in these close elections. If some of you guys don't believe it I invite you to WATCH. We are slowly ridding ourselves of these people who discriminate against the descending families of the Confederate nation.

Posted by: Darryl | November 15, 2006 7:28 PM

All I know is Allen is out of there, and Webb is in there, And Virginia will be better off because of it. And Allen's dream of becoming president won't happen now--kaput, done!!! Virginians finally got to see the real George Allen during this campaign, and voted his hind parts out.

Posted by: bladerunner | November 16, 2006 4:45 PM

Racists vote. Blacks won't vote for a Repub even if the Repub is black, so white Goerge Allen hasn't a prayer. It is never a good idea to alienate your base, who/whatever it is, for no profit. The GOP Southern Strategy prevails to this day in part because blacks will not vote for any Republican (probably even Edward Brooke). GOP pandering to racists and black Dem support has become the political equivalent of the chicken and the egg. You can wring your hands over it, but if you can't come up with a more effective strategy -- short of repudiating everything you and your party stands for -- politicians will play the cards they hold.

Posted by: RL | November 17, 2006 8:26 PM

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