Jim Gilmore 2008? Wrong Man, Wrong Race

What follows is just my objective $.02 on a matter of not so impending public concern.

The Mason Conservative recently posted at his joint and at the New Sic Semper Tyrannis about a Jim Gilmore for Senate candidacy. TMC notes Gilmore’s perseverance, his tenacity, his ability to win when others count him out:

Republicans don’t seem to want him and Democrats relish the chance to bemoan him. And yet here he is, like a bloody DeNiro in Raging Bull yelling at Ray Robinson “You never knocked me down” over and over. He continues to survive, and perhaps even thrive under these circumstances. Jim Gilmore’s chances of a comeback are always put down, but here he is.

Ultimately, he reminds us:

Jim Gilmore is tough enough to withstand a lot, and has proven over and over that he is a survivor. Don’t take him lightly.

I agree. In fact, I offered a post similar to this when Gilmore announced his now discontinued presidential candidacy. At that time (January 2007) I wrote:

Jim Gilmore is a man who has never lost [a statewide] election. He knows how to build an organization, he is unwilling to concede defeat, and will not back away from a fight. Men with lesser abilities have won presidential nominations. He has yet to be The Prince, but he is certainly not a Poseur.

Ignore or belittle him and his candidacy at your peril.

I still stand by that-but it is due to that very nature of the man that I sincerely hope he does not receive the 2008 GOP Senate nomination.  This is not about the electoral terrain, ideological purity, past records or political baggage.  It is due to my take on the man himself.

Run for Governor in 2009? OK. Senate 2008? Not a chance. I would vote for him over Mark Warner, but only because Mark Warner has shown himself to be a political chameloen who is not to be trusted and who will raise taxes as a first resort. Jim Gilmore is not a chameleon-he sets his course, flies his colors, and follows his chosen path whether it leads him onto the reef or into safe harbor.

However, it is those traits that I think will make him a very poor US Senator.

I have said before that I think some people by their nature function better in the executive branch than in the legislative branch.  I suggest that Jim Gilmore is such a person.  He has a strong sense of what needs to be done, and does it.  Sometimes to his credit, sometimes not. 

Example-Gilmore seized on and expertly used ending the car tax as a killing issue in the 1997 gubernatorial election.  It was reduced 70% quickly in his administration, and there were agreements to push for the balance when certain economic and budget forecasts were met.  All well and good…then Gilmore decided the other 30% had to be had before he left office.  In doing so he broke agreements with legislative leaders, and ignored that the state was in the midst of a more than middling economic downturn as the dot-com bubble burst.  He had to have his additional 30%, when prudence suggested focusing on other issues.  Gilmore did not get his completed cut, and sowed bad blood in the budgeting process that is still there today.

An elected or appointed executive is fully empowered ay to push his/her agenda and  put it into affect.  That kind of description fits Jim Gillmore to a tee.  But a legislator has to be patient, working with others to craft legislation.  A legislator has to be able to get along.  To a great degree, they have to be able to play well with others.  I have not seen where this can be said of Jim Gilmore.  His public service has been one of executive positions…Commonwealth’s Attorney, Attorney General, Governor, Chairman of the RNC.  His never say die personality is indicative of someone who neither wants nor needs others approval, and suggests his true strengths are found when he is in a position where he can forge ahead and make things happen.

I don’t think Gilmore has the patience or temperment to be an effective Senator, no matter how much one might like him on the issues.  If he wants to reenter public life, let it be as a candidate for Governor in 2009, not for the Senate in 2008.  I don’t pretend to know his chances in either race, but I think the man will be more comfortable, and the Commonwealth served better, if he is in Richmond than if he is in Washington.

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7 thoughts on “Jim Gilmore 2008? Wrong Man, Wrong Race

  1. Bwana:
    Once again (as many times before) you and I are in total agreement. There is a reason that Jim was never elected to the first office he ever ran for, The House of Delegates… he does not possess the patience nor the political strategic skills to survive on Capitol Hill. His standoff with his “own” legislature is proof enough of that. I think the better standard bearer for the Republican Senate Race in ’08 is the Congressman from the 11th District, Tom Davis. Tom is a master legislator he is very skilled in the ways of Capitol Hill and manuvers them very well and does feel good when he can help others. So, Jim needs to look at possibly running for Gov again or enjoy political retirement.

    Bwana Fan In Vienna

  2. I’m not sure I agree with you that Gilmore is the right man to be governor again.

    The very qualities that you think make him suited to the office “…sets his own course whether it leads him into a reef or safe harbor.” is actually stubborness and an inability to make any compromise.

    Integrity and being one’s own man are good qualities. But Gilmore goes beyond that to a “my way or the highway” attitude.

    And insisting on getting the last 30% of the car tax cut done at a time of a strong economic downturn – the dot.com bubble bursting – showed poor judgment. It threatened our triple A bond rating and could have hurt the state far more than it did. Even if you don’t wish to credit Mark Warner’s economic policies with the turn around, let’s just say, at least, we got lucky.

    I agree with your take that he’s tempermentally unsuited to be in a legislative body.

    But, intelligent a man as he may be, I think he’s also tempermentally unsuited for a return engagement as governor too. You have far better candidates than Gilmore in 09.

  3. I am unsure if the AIAW comment was directed to me or BFIV, but just in case…

    I don’t believe I (or, in fact, BFIV) said that Gilmore is the right man to be governor again…there is too much water to go under the bridge between now and 2009 to make an assertion like that, and

    What I did say is that I think he is tempermentally unsuited to serve in a legislature, and that his personality and such serve him better in an executive position. BFIV indicated Gilmore should look at Governor 2009 or retirement. I agree with that assertion as far as it goes.

    However, I do presently fear that a Jim Gilmore candidacy for Governor of Virginia, even before you get to the matter of his temperment, will be a replay of the Henry Howell campaign in 1977-that Gilmore might have just enough support among the party faithful to get the nomination, and then will get badly torched in the general election.

  4. To set my record straight, Jim is not my first choice for ANY office. 2008 is next year and who knows what will happen in 2009. Having said that I know Jim has support among the party faithful and it would be interesting to see how ’09 plays out. I tend to think that both parties need to look at who their next few statewide candidates will be and decide who is the better standard bearer for their values. I think in both repsects, for a true leader…both benches are very thin. Not a happy thought for a hot but decent July day.

    Bwana Fan In Vienna

  5. Good analysis. Nay, very thoughtful and perceptive – great – analysis. Yet, having said what you did, an imperfect square Gilmore in a round hole U.S. Senate job for 6 years is better for the Commonwealth and the Nation than any other known choice, save Bill Bolling. All others would do less and worse than Jim Gilmore in 6 years of service – and beyond.

    I just wish Gilmore would announce and run – regardless of John Warner’s desires for a final act and curtain call on his political theater. I know that isn’t the way its done, but I still advocate ‘bold’ bearing on brash if there is a good fight to win.

  6. Pingback: Warners and Gilmore and Davis, Oh My! « Renaissance Ruminations

  7. Pingback: The Gilmore Problem « Renaissance Ruminations

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