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Virginia: Fish, Beer and Politics

WAKEFIELD, Va., April 19 -- Virginia's political class gathered here today for the 58th annual Shad Planking to toast Sen. George Allen (R) and his all-but-announced bid for president in 2008 over cold beer and bony fish.

Bob McDonnell
Master of ceremonies Bob McDonnell, Virginia's attorney general, speaking at the Shad Planking. Sen. George Allen, and Reps. Robert C. Scott (center) and Tom Davis are in the foreground. (Robert A. Reeder - The Washington Post)

Although Allen insists he is focused on winning a second term in November, much of the talk at the this year in Wakefield centered on his potential on the national stage. State Attorney General Bob McDonnell (R), who gave the only formal address of the day, summed up the sentiment: "It's an honor to be able to tell my children I shared the stage with the next president," before "correcting" himself: "I mean the junior senator from Virginia."

Allen was the star of the day -- his blue and white campaign colors were on hats, shirts, signs and stray trees -- but the two Democrats hoping to deny him reelection in the fall also made appearances.

James Webb (D), who served as President Reagan's Navy Secretary, was the clear winner among all three Senate candidates in the infamous "sign war" that has come to define the Shad Planking -- hundreds of Webb signs emblazoned with the campaign's "Born Fighting" slogan showed the way to the event.

"Ain't no doubt who won the sign war," said former Rep. Ben "Cooter" Jones, a Webb supporter. "You cannot come in here without knowing our friend George has a fight on his hands."

Webb himself, wearing combat boots, jeans and a tan hat with an American flag on it, seemed somewhat taken aback by the thirty-something supporters who paraded around the main thoroughfare with signs to mark his arrival.

Shad Planking in Virginia
Susan Mariner, of Virginia Beach, a campaign worker for Jim Webb's U.S. Senate campaign, dances Wednesday to Bluegrass music during the 53rd Shad Planking. (AP)

"I didn't come here to make a speech," Webb said, seemingly setting up the kind of aw-shucks stem winder that former President Bill Clinton made famous. But Webb was speaking literally. He praised his volunteers for their diligence in the sign war and quickly brought his remarks to a close. His supporters seemed ready to explode in raucous applause but their candidate never gave them reason to -- a sign that he still has a ways to go as a candidate.

Following his brief speech, Webb chatted with supporters in small groups, occasionally signing a copy of his latest book: "Born Fighting." He largely avoided working the Republican-friendly crowd, a major contrast to Allen -- a master of the glad handing, backslapping, cigar-smoking politics that dominate the Shad Planking.

The other Democrat seeking to take on Allen this year, Harris Miller was nearly nonexistent. Flanked by two aides manning poles decorated with Miller signs, the Democrat did a some interviews before heading back to Richmond for a series of campaign events.

Asked why he had such a small presence at Shad Planking (he apparently chose not to compete in the sign war, outnumbered even by Republican Rep. Randy Forbes who is a shoo-in for reelection this fall), Miller pointed to his background as a businessman, arguing that investing thousands of dollars on signs, a beer truck and other paraphernalia didn't seem a sound investment to him. "If George Allen wants to waste tens of thousands of dollars on signs, good for him," Miller said. "I wonder if his donors in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina know that."

Both Webb and Miller avoided attacking one another, choosing to focus their attention on Allen. Miller said he spends 99 percent of his time to detailing Allen's shortcomings because "that's the message Democrats want to hear."

Webb, who was considerably more engaging (and engaged) in a one-on-one conversation than when speaking to his supporters, said he devotes little time to talking about either Miller or Allen, choosing instead to focus on his opposition to the war in Iraq and the growing problem of "presidential overreach."

One issue that dogged Webb throughout the day was his past service in a Republican administration and his 2000 endorsement of Allen over Sen. Chuck Robb (D). That record led McDonnell to compare Webb to John Kerry -- the Democratic nominee for president in 2004. "Jim Webb has something in common with Senator Kerry," said McDonnell. "He was for George Allen before he was against him."

Webb acknowledged that he has "been on both sides of the party issue for a long time." He said he became a Reagan Democrat after President Jimmy Carter pardoned draft dodgers. His ideological pendulum began swinging in the other direction on Sept. 11, 2001, and the war in Iraq, coupled with the Bush administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina, convinced him that he was a Democrat again. "Despite the flaws of the Democratic Party, when it works right it addresses the issues of people who have no voice," Webb said.

Allen, too, largely avoided any negative comments about his two potential Democratic opponents. He said he planned to run a "positive campaign," but said he was "prepared" for the attacks from both state and national Democrats. "Democrats have a nice target on my back, having run the [Republican] Senatorial Committee [and] defeating [former South Dakota Sen.] Tom Daschle," said Allen.

Shad Planking in Virginia
The generally pro-Republican Shad Planking crowd proudly sported George Allen shirts, hats and signs. (Robert A. Reeder - The Washington Post)

Allen was surrounded by a ring of people (a mix of staff, supporters and reporters) throughout the day, which lent to the feeling that he was the star of the show. He spent most of the day signing hats and T-shirts and being lavished with praise for the job he had done as governor and now in the Senate.

The adulation of Allen was interrupted by a small group of college-age volunteers representing an Iowa-based group called Rescue the Perishing. They handed out fliers questioning the Allen's stance on the abortion issue. (The group's name comes from a Christian hymn.)

"Is George Allen the presidential candidate you are planning to support?" the flier asks, highlighting Allen's alleged support for abortions in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother was endangered. It also noted that Allen said he would not have signed a bill passed by the South Dakota legislature that would ban abortions entirely unless the life of the mother was in danger. Allen has said he favors leaving the abortion issue to the states.

Check this space tomorrow for an update on the 2008 Senate race and 2009 gubernatorial contest in Virginia -- and to find out the most famous person who calls Wakefield, Va., home.

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 20, 2006; 9:23 AM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008 , Senate  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Parsing the Polls: Iraq, Vietnam and Public Opinion
Next: 2008: The Case Against John Kerry


funny ringtones

Posted by: | August 25, 2006 4:45 AM | Report abuse

Vienna Voter: You're exactly right and that's my point. In a Democratic Primary in Virginia, a conservative has zero chance of getting the (D) nomination and a 'moderate Democrat' (if such a thing still exists) has virtually no chance as evidenced by Puckett's poor showing in '05. Puckett is a tax-raising liberal, as his record will reveal, but he had a 'moderate' image...which caused him to come in dead last in a primary in which the liberal base was split 3 ways (between Peterson, Byrne & Baskerville). He couldn't do any better than a poor fourth even with the liberal base split into 3 pieces!

The same fate will befall Webb...Harris Miller & the liberals will bury him. And I cannot blame them as Webb has supported Reagan and Allen in the past (Allen as shortly as 6 yrs ago) and now he's going to try to convince the Dim's that he's a "born again liberal"??? Even Democrats aren't stupid enough to fall for that!

The number of Kerry-Edwards supporters isn't the 'Democrat base''d have to take the weakest number of votes that a Democrat got in a statewide election, say Bill Dolan for AG, for example, that's the base. Just look at how many less votes Kaine won with than Kerry-Edwards lost with in Virginia.

But your point is well taken, Byrne won the (D) primary with a pitifully small number of votes. That can be chalked up to the fact that with primaries being 'optional' in VA, and held on an irregular basis, most voters ignore them. You'll see a lot larger turnout in neighboring states such as KY, TN, WV, etc. that hold primaries every election year in a fixed cycle where voters are aware of them.

There's a big difference between 'fanatics' and 'special interests'...I may be a fanatic as I care about issues, am involved in the process and vote at every opportunity...but I'm not a special interest, merely a peon.

Posted by: VAVoter | April 23, 2006 9:46 PM | Report abuse

Well, if Warner and Allen are the nominees, Warner would destroy Allen in Virginia.

Posted by: Q | April 21, 2006 5:41 PM | Report abuse

VA Voter: The Democrats "nominated" Leslie Byrne in a primary. She used that vehicle to get a nomination she probably wouldn't have been able to win otherwise.

More power to her there. She "gamed the system" and won.

If you consider the number of Virginians who voted for Kerry/Edwards in November 2004 (1,454,742) as the "Democratic Base," Byrne obtained the nomination with the votes of 2.6% of the Party.

Shows you why the fanatics (sorry, special interests) put so much money into them.

Posted by: Vienna Voter | April 21, 2006 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Allen has the aw-shucks lingo down good enough to win the Southern Good Ol Boy vote, but there is going to be a battle in 2008 in the Republican party. I have no idea who will win the nomination, but with so many Republicans running, plus Condi possibly as a write-in candidate, I wonder if any reporter has pondered what a delegate floor fight might look like in 2008? Will the top delegate winner select the person with the second highest delegates, in the manner of Reagan choosing Bush? From a political strategy, that has always been the strongest ticket to win the regions of our nation.

Posted by: Amy | April 21, 2006 3:09 PM | Report abuse

George Allen looks like Howdy Doody. Now he acts like Howdy Doody with George Bush being the puppeteer pulling the strings. "ho-ho Buffalo Bob"

Posted by: Roy Carter | April 21, 2006 2:10 PM | Report abuse

The Republicans will have a battle in 2007 for the UN-McCain wing of the party, it will be the rightwingers like Brownback, Frist, and Huckabee against the pragmatic wing of Rudy and Condi Rice.
McCain has a small slice of support in Iowa, he might get back his supporters from 2000, but after 8 years of a strong leader like Bush, I am not supporting McCain like I did in 2000.
I think Condi Rice is the best bet for our nation, and I also like President Bush, strong leadership in the style of Reagan.

Posted by: John | April 21, 2006 12:11 PM | Report abuse

The only senate candidate that's worked with Allen is Harris Miller. He's spent the last 10 years pushing Republican legislation through congress. Duh!

Once again lies about Webb...

Posted by: Stacey | April 21, 2006 12:04 AM | Report abuse

Webb is no "Reagan Democrat"...who's he trying to fool? He was a 'Reagan Republican', an 'Allen Republican' and if elected he'll be a REPUBLICAN U.S. Senator. He's anti-peace, anti-women, anti-worker. So I'm anti-Webb!

Posted by: Pete S. | April 20, 2006 9:07 PM | Report abuse

In my prior post I forgot to mention the facts that I had a problem with in Populist Democrat's post. While Sen. Hillary Clinton represents a blue state she obviously spent most of her life in Arkansas which is in the South and so perhaps she always was in favor of a flag-burning amendment.

However, my main argument is not that she never takes a political stand on certain issues. My problem is why does she get all the criticism for it when that's the rule rather than the exception. Look at Sen. John McCain for instance. I personally think Sen. Feingold is one of the few that act on principle rather than politics. For instance, the way I remember it, Sen. Feingold was in favor of a censure against former President Bill Clinton. You can correct me if I I'm wrong.

Posted by: Jason | April 20, 2006 9:04 PM | Report abuse

The stupid Democrats will nominate the most liberal candidate (Miller) and Allen will bury him in November...just look at the '05 primary...if the stupid Dim's had nominated Puckett, the only sane candidate in the race, they would've swept all 3 offices...but the nominated the most liberal (Byrne) and only Kaine won...Puckett, the closest thing to a moderate in the race came in dead last...the same thing will happen to Webb (a half-a**ed Dim at best) in the primary this June...and Allen can't lose in November!!!

Posted by: VAVoter | April 20, 2006 9:02 PM | Report abuse

Hi, PopulistDemocrat

I think you are correct about the inconsistency, but I have a quibble with the logic and I am not so sure you are correct on the facts. For instance, you say the flag-burning amendment is about priniciple (you say Hillary has sold out her prinicples for politics)but then you justify James Webb's position since he is in a red state, which is a political reason. Plus don't you think it is a national issue (in other words it doesn't affect just Virginia or New York but affects us all. I mean I could understand your reasoning if he proposed making it illegal to burn a flag just in Virgina but this is a national issue.

Posted by: Jason | April 20, 2006 8:56 PM | Report abuse

So George Allen was actually in Virginia? Was he lost? Or was it just a stopover on his way back to Iowa?

Posted by: JoshA | April 20, 2006 8:52 PM | Report abuse

Some asked about it not being fair that if Webb was against flag burning and we are for him and when Hillary is against it we say she is a traitor. Well you got to look at it. Webb was in the Navy and is doing in principle plus he is in a red state Southern State and has always had moderate leaning philosophy. On the other hand, Hillary a blue state Democrat never been in the armed forces, used to be liberal and is just joining the flag burning side in her push to be a moderate conservative. She is selling out her principles and I will never support her for President.

Posted by: PopulistDemcrat | April 20, 2006 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Webb, a Reagan Democrat, is obviously the most formidable candidate in the field. He can eat right into the Republican base while retaining the traditional Democratic family. With his moderate appeal he could get a big chunk out of the independent base as well, with the election of Democrat Tim Kaine, the steady falling of the number of Republicans in legislature, John Kerry doing better in Virginia than most past Dems in Presidential elections, and the immense popularity of Mark Warner should allow Webb to put up a fight with Allen. Will Webb beat him? It is a possibility, I think Allen is the favorite, but too bad Mark Warner did not run against George Allen because poll shown that Warner would destroy Allen in a Presidential race in Virginia by over 10%.

Posted by: PopulistDemocrat | April 20, 2006 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I think it is wonderful democrats are getting motivated for a US Senate race, because we are in constant need of competition. However, not even the possibility that Allen would not finish the term is going to allow a Democrat not named Warner to win this election.
The simple fact for Democrats in this state and across the country is that when there is an absence of a "cross-over" candidate the better organized Republicans will win. Neither Miller or Webb has the appeal to negate this advantage.

Posted by: i little | April 20, 2006 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Harris Miller is in league with the electronic voting interests who steal elections and make promises to deliver states to certain people (DIEBOLD, anyone?); that's far worse than someone who switches parties. Last time I checked, the Republicans weren't representing much of anyone except the "religious" extreme Christians and the hyper-rich, so can you blame people for jumping like rats off a sinking ship?

As for the flag-burning thing, nobody is perfect. The central fallacy with these discussions is that people expect the perfect candidate to fall out of the sky and land in office. When there's a candidate who's the best for the job, but you only agree with 90% of what he says, people are too quick to write him off. Webb is the best candidate, WORLDS better than the lobbyist or the glad-handling sleazeball Allen. He's got my vote...

Posted by: bamagirlinVA | April 20, 2006 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Mr Cillizza, an actual PAID 'journalist?' hasn't a clue about figures of speech, or very much about spelling, either.
Mr C, in this column and in previous gaffes, is enamored of the expression, "shoo-in", as in, "shooing" [a Southern regionalism, beyond Mr C's ken], an exclamation used to drive poultry, pets, errant children, etc., away or toward something/-where.
Any competent fourth-grader WELL knows the difference between "hear" and "here"; Mr C doesn't.
Nor do his editors--if they exist, or care. Not everything in life, Mr C, should be relegated to machinery spell-checks: Didja ever hear the word, "homonym?" Or don't you care about that, either.
BAD, unprofessional writing!!! Nonexistent, crummy Washington Post policies!
bill n
San Francisco

Posted by: hohenburg | April 20, 2006 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I think Scott's mother, a Republican, trying to clobber Gov. Perry is a key factor which makes Scott nervous.
Maybe he is going to back to Texas to settle the conflict but I highly doubt his is going to be going to Allen's senate campaign.
The 2008 field is wide open, there is no establishment candidate selected by the national party so far. Even the President has not endorsed anyone YET. I think he is grooming Condi for the race, and the fact that she is being discussed 2 years ahead of the next election is an amazing thing. Run Condi Run.

Posted by: Rita | April 20, 2006 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Any truth to speculation that outgoing Press Secretary Scott McClellan is joining Team Allen for Senate Communications and set up for 2008?

Also, interesting. While staff shake-ups usually start with the public face of the administration, McClellan's mother is an independent candidate for Texas governor (Carole Keeton Strayhorn) challenging incumbant republican Rick Perry. Any connection?

Posted by: RMill | April 20, 2006 1:05 PM | Report abuse

I am sure Jefferson was there in spirit.

As far as Webb endorsing Allen over Robb, Robb was hardly the darling of the party at that point. He had been racking up problems and scandals (Miss Virginia Tai Collins, cocaine, cell phone recordings of Gov Wilder).

Posted by: RMill | April 20, 2006 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Let me see, if James Webb's position is to support an anti flag-burning amendment, it's fine and dandy but if Hillary Clinton is for it, she is a traitor to her party. Is this fair? I don't know whether James Webb supports it or not, but my guess is he does. What do you think?

Posted by: Jason | April 20, 2006 12:33 PM | Report abuse

I didn't want to blow the story for CC for tomorrow.

Posted by: RMill | April 20, 2006 12:15 PM | Report abuse

George Washington is the correct answer...

Posted by: Arlington | April 20, 2006 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Allen is going to get distracted for the 2006 re-election because he has been flying all over the map to Iowa, N Hamp, S Carolina, and Memphis to gin up the support for a 2008 run. Just like Hillary, so at least that should be part of the campaign.
Bob Graham of Florida, Lieberman of Conn., Edwards of S Carolina, Kerry of Mass. and Gephardt, all these guys missed a majority of votes in 2003 because they were jumping all over the map raising money and support for their president race in 2004.
So why not force these people to admit it to their voters that they will be seeking the nomination in 2008 and let the people of their own state decide if they want them to win another term only to waste it by not doing their job on voting for issues and federal judges?
Hillary has been exposed for using her Senate seat as a stepping stone for the White House and it is the one major issue that makes the New York voters angry, they don't want her to run for president.
She slipped in under the carpet in 2000, and she will lose the trust of the New York voters if she won't tell the truth about running in 2008.

Posted by: Doris | April 20, 2006 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Miller timed his racist lies about Webb during this time.
Truth has prevailed, and Miller the Shiller will get sunk.

Posted by: Stacey | April 20, 2006 11:55 AM | Report abuse

New polling on VA US Senate race:
April 11

Allen 50%
Webb 30%

Allen 51%
Miller 34%

Allen 49.9%
Webb 38%

Allen 48.9%
Miller 41.7%

Survey USA
March Approval
Allen 51%

CC- Just curious re:Famous Wakefield, VA resident.

Alive or dead?

The Washington Post-
Washington, D.C.
Author: By Edward T. Folliard Post Staff Writer
Date: Oct 26, 1941
Start Page: 1
Document Types: front_page

Posted by: RMill | April 20, 2006 11:44 AM | Report abuse

I talked to people who were there and would have to disagree that Webb didn't motivate his volunteers. They are more motivated than anything I've seen in a long time.
Interesting that a Repub will vote for Miller. Scared that Webb will beat Allen I guess.

Posted by: Stacey | April 20, 2006 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Just thought I'd correct something here. I am not a campaign worker. I was one of the many volunteers who had a blast helping Jim's campaign out yesterday. And thanks to everybody else from all over the state who showed up to volunteer to place the 7,500 signs we put up.

Jim's a tremendous person and I've now seen him and spoken with him at 5 different events. His supporters are the most motivated grassroots supporters I've personally ever seen in a race in Virginia. It's very inspiring.

His volunteers were already more than motivated, and from the word I got over and over at Shad Planking, they were even more so after yesterday. The more congenial of Allen's supporters mentioned how impressed they were with our winning the sign war, though they were quick to point out that Allen had signs farther out than we did. I spoke with a number of Republicans who after seeing Jim speak and then talking with other volunteers actually switched their stickers from Allen to Webb. I didn't see the opposite happen. That said, I'd like to see Mr. Webb get a 30 second sound bite and play it for all it's worth because we know that people like that kind of thing.

Go get 'em Webb!

Posted by: Susan Mariner | April 20, 2006 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Arturo - I also agree that by putting resume and/or experience above campaign skills, we Dems keep losing. The problem is that "the best platform" doesn't translate necessarily into "the best campaigner." If Cillizza is correct, Webb failed to motivate his supporters or connect with the people who showed up to the Shad Planking. So whatever his platform is, his campaigning was flat. I like Webb, and I hope he wins, but it's going to take more than what he displayed yesterday to do it.

Posted by: Dan | April 20, 2006 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Any chance that Dick Cheney will follow up on his promise to campaign for Dem. Darcy Burner, who's running for WA-8, as he promised? His promise was printed up in two Washington State daily papers, and she accepted in a letter, which is posted on Seattle's weekly Stranger blog.

I personally would donate to her campaign if he helps her by doing a dunk tank ...

Posted by: Will in Seattle | April 20, 2006 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Well I guess if a fool like Bush could be elected, a fool like Allen could as well. Pity our poor country.

Posted by: candide | April 20, 2006 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Art, I completely agree with you that we Should vote in the most qualified people, but the problem is that most people don't pay as close attention to politics as folks like us do. Therefore, a candidate must be able to portray their superior credentials and platform in the small amount of time they have to convince the average voter. That is where I think Webb comes up short. Now given enough time I beleive that he can get better in this area, but he isn't there yet.

Posted by: Andy R | April 20, 2006 10:47 AM | Report abuse

I think I'll vote for Miller in the Dem primary; good thing they're open 'cause I'm a Republican!

Posted by: Stick | April 20, 2006 10:45 AM | Report abuse

I've met Senator Allen and have seen him on TV and heard him on the radio many times. Besides a tendency for run-on sentences, he's a very talented politician and (gasp!) a smart man. Because of his ideology, he's the type of guy Democratic politicians and partisans always underestimate. He'll run hard and beat Webb or Miller.

Posted by: Mark | April 20, 2006 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Andy R said "Also remember that we don't elect people with the best resume (which Webb clearly has) we vote in the best campaigner." That's why the Dems keep losing. It's time to vote for the person with the best resume (Jim Webb) AND the best platform (Jim Webb).

Posted by: Arturo | April 20, 2006 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Allen is just as phony as George W. Hey, Republicans can you imagine a spittoon in every corner of the White House. Ugh.

Posted by: Mandy Lewis | April 20, 2006 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Dan's right. Full party re-alignment is long overdue. When the Southerners got up the nerve to do it, the Northerners who were frozen out of the GOP should have been reconsidering which party they best fit into.

States wouldn't be allowed to unseat duly elected Federal officials. So, special elections are out. To try to do so might even require a Constitutional Amendment.

Posted by: Vienna Voter | April 20, 2006 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Republicans are cool with "hokey and stupid". Hell, they won the last two elections with it.

Posted by: Rick in Cincy | April 20, 2006 10:20 AM | Report abuse

So I have seen Webb on TV and he really is not in his element on camera. Now I think Allen comes off as being real hokey and stupid, at least he seems comfortable. I just wonder how Webb will do in a debate with someone who is a much better nuts and bolts politician then he is.
Also remember that we don't elect people with the best resume (which Webb clearly has) we vote in the best campaigner. If it were the other way around Bill Bradley would be president now (and we would be alot better off)

Posted by: Andy R | April 20, 2006 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Webb personifies how the Democrats need to rebrand their party: compassionate and tough.

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal Journal | April 20, 2006 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Why do people think it is bad for a candidate to reevaluate the party's core beliefs and change parties as the parties change? It seems to me that someone who is so close to the borderline is exactly what the country needs.

As long as the shift in party comes before an election and not after an election. Shifting parties (by an incumbent) except before an election should be grounds for the governor to call a special election.

Posted by: Dan | April 20, 2006 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Did Allen bring along "Mr. Jefferson" as a guest?

Posted by: Vienna Voter | April 20, 2006 9:40 AM | Report abuse

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