Virginia Notebook: 15 Questions for VA GOP
Thousands of party activists will converge on the Greater Richmond Convention Center this weekend for the state Republican convention.
Republicans will select their nominee for the race to fill the seat of retiring Sen. John W. Warner (R). They will also elect a party chairman and delegates to the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis.
The convention will offer insight into the future direction of the party and clues into upcoming state and federal elections. Here are 15 questions the convention might help to answer. You can check back next week to find out the answers
1. Can former governor James S. Gilmore III fend off Del. Robert G. Marshall for the U.S. Senate nomination? Gilmore all but declared victory last month over Marshall (R-Prince William), saying he was confident he received a majority of the delegates needed to win. But Marshall, who is running because Gilmore supports abortion rights until the eighth week of pregnancy, is predicting an upset because, he says, his supporters are more energized.
2. If Gilmore wins, how big will his margin be? Because Mark R. Warner, the Democratic Senate candidate and former governor, is favored to win in the fall, Gilmore can't afford to head into the general election with weak support among Republicans. If Gilmore defeats Marshall by a narrow margin, questions will be raised about whether he has what it takes to make his race against Warner competitive. A 60.percent to 40.percent win over Marshall would be a respectable showing for Gilmore, who has outspent Marshall 16 to 1. If Gilmore's margin is even larger, he will have had a very good weekend.
3. How many supporters of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul will attend the convention? Enamored with his libertarian views and opposition to the war in Iraq, Paul supporters had a vocal presence at many county and district Republican conventions this spring. They have been vowing to turn out in large numbers at the state convention in hopes of getting Paul a few Virginia delegates to the national convention. If they succeed, it could foreshadow an interesting sideshow at the national convention because similar efforts are taking place in other states.
4. What kind of reception will Arizona Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, receive? McCain won't be at the convention, but his name will surely come up a lot, and some of his Virginia surrogates will be there. In recent weeks, state and national Republican leaders have been stressing that the party is unified behind McCain, despite his moderate stances on issues such as immigration. When McCain opened his Virginia headquarters last week in Pentagon City, three conservative activists from Northern Virginia picketed the event and said they will not support him in the fall. If the response to McCain is lukewarm, it could mean Republicans have a lot of work to do to rally the party behind him for the general election.
5. Will Republicans loyal to Rep. Tom Davis (Va.) throw their support behind Gilmore or Marshall, if they show up at the convention all? Davis, a moderate, had been preparing for years to run for the Senate but abandoned those plans after Gilmore persuaded the party to have a nominating convention instead of a primary. Many Davis supporters still have a grudge against Gilmore, but they aren't necessarily ideologically aligned with Marshall, either. If Davis loyalists show up in support of Marshall, it might mean they will also vote for Warner in the fall if Gilmore is the nominee.
6. How many Republican activists will attend? State Republican conventions in the early and mid-1990s, when the party was ascending into power, were massive. The 1994 convention, at which the party nominated Oliver L. North as its U.S. Senate candidate, attracted 15,000 delegates, making it one of the largest political conventions in U.S. history. Party leaders are expecting about 5,000 people this year. If fewer show up, it could be a sign the Republican base is badly demoralized this year.
7. Can Virginia Republican Party Chairman John H. Hager hold onto his job?
Hager, a former lieutenant governor, is seeking reelection but faces a stiff challenge from Del. Jeffrey M. Frederick (R-Prince William). If Frederick wins, conservatives will have gained a firm hold on the party's leadership.
8. Can Vice President Cheney still attract a crowd?
Cheney will headline a $150 a plate fundraiser for the state party tomorrow night. According to published reports, a scheduled McCain fundraiser that featured President Bush in Phoenix on Tuesday had to be relocated because of poor ticket sales.
9. If Marshall loses, will he immediately endorse Gilmore?
A quick endorsement from Marshall could go a long way toward helping Gilmore solidify his conservative base.
10. Will former senator George Allen give any clues about his political future? Allen, also a former governor, will be the keynote speaker Saturday. Although he decided not to run for governor again next year, he hasn't ruled out a future run for public office. Is he looking for a rematch against Sen. James Webb (D) in 2012?
11. How often will Bush be mentioned? During this year's fight for the Republican nomination for president, the candidates largely steered clear of referencing Bush, who polls show is unpopular. Will Virginia Republicans be showing Bush more love?
12. Who will be the front-runner in next year's attorney general race?
State Sen. Ken Cuccinelli II (R-Fairfax) and former U.S. prosecutor John L. Brownlee are announced candidates for the party nomination. This convention will be an early indicator on who has a bigger following.
13. What will the speakers, as well as the delegates' signs and T-shirts, say about Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the likely Democratic nominee for president? The tenor of the remarks and literature about Obama will offer clues into what sort of arguments and whisper campaigns might be launched against him in the fall in Virginia.
14. How aggressively will Gilmore go after Warner? Assuming he doesn't lose to Marshall, Gilmore is likely to give a preview of his fall strategy for deflating Warner's popularity.
15. Will Henry Hager and his new wife, Jenna Bush, make an appearance in support of his father's bid to be reelected party chairman? If they do, does Frederick stand a chance?
May 28, 2008; 10:28 AM ET
Categories: Election 2008/Congress , Election 2008/Local , Election 2008/President , Election 2008/U.S. Senate , George F. Allen , James Gilmore III , John W. Warner , Ken Cuccinelli , Mark Warner , Thomas M. Davis III , Tim Craig , Virginia Notebook
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