A post by Norm “The great” Leahy has me thinking that Jim Gilmore is frightened and running scared. Why? Because his dream scenario is now gone.
Having not won an election since 1997, not held office since 2002, coming in off a failed presidential campaign, Jimbo (his new Delta Tau Chi name) has not had an electoral success to point to as his own since the GOP took over the General Assembly in 1999. It occurs to me that he hoped Tom Davis would run-then he could get back into campaign shape by taking out a formidable challenger, and creating a stronger picture of himself as the fall of 2008 rolled around.
But then Tom Davis stepped out-so no convention win over a strong opponent. No way to show that all the uncertainties and concerns about him are unfounded. But an unopposed race to the nomination, followed by a coronation in June…that’s not so bad.
But it might not work out that way. Now you have folks looking for another candidate. This Chris Saxman guy, well, he is making noise…and not only would he be the undergod, but he has some political skills and geographic/demographic advantages.
Saxman has been a delegate since 2002. He is a conservative from a safe seat in the Shenandoah Valley. No reason to think he is a threat. One would have expected the campaign of a former state Attorney General and Governor, winner of two statewide general elections and a primary, to take the high road…you know, praise Saxman as a future star of the party (focus on future), welcome him to the fray as the GOP seeks to keep the John Warner seat, etc.
Instead, as per reports from Tim Craig’s blog, the Gilmore campaign is following a different tact:
But Dick Leggitt, a senior Gilmore adviser, said he thinks Saxman is bluffing.“He is just trying to raise his name ID because he wants to run for lieutenant governor” in 2009, Leggitt said. “We talked to 20 legislators in the last day and we can’t find anyone who says anything other than this is Gilmore’s nomination.”Leggitt said Saxman is playing a game of “hey, look at me.” He called Saxman “a nice guy, but not a serious candidate.”Saxman was not immediately available for comment.
Leggitt stresses the Republican Party cannot afford a divisive fight for the nomination or the nominee would likely lose to Warner. “We’ve got to unite this party to win,” Leggitt said. “We’ve got to get all the Republicans pulling the plow in the same direction and we don’t underestimate how difficult that will be.”
Before we continue, allow me to note how the mention of Dick Leggit’s involvement does not make me wax poetic about the ultimate success of the Gilmore campaign.
Now it is possible that Leggit’s comments are exactly what they are on their face-dismissing a publicity seeking junior legislator.
But let me offer a different take. It just may be that the Jimbo brain trust put their heads together and thought (do the Wayne’s World wavy hands thing here):
…Now, hold on a second…Saxman is a downstate conservative, with better fiscal achievements than Jimbo. He came to office after Jimbo left, so he cannot be tarred with the Car Tax Fiasco. If he runs, he would pull voters from Jimbo. If he does that, and if the delegates who would have backed Davis decide to get behind Saxman…we could be in a world of hurt…
Party On, Garth.
I don’t know that Saxman is or is not seeking publicity…but I do know that a Gilmore convention win over Davis would be based on scoring tons of delegates downstate to off set more moderate GOP types in NoVa and Tidewater…and if you hook those folks while scavenging folks from downstate that want a conservative and are currently behind Gilmore only because there is no other option…then you have a ballgame.
Perhaps I am reading too much into this, but typically a front runner like Gilmore doesn’t talk smack about unannounced opposition. Leggit’s comments are not those of an operative whose candidate is looking to build the party and encourage the bench, while confident of their own chances of success. They are the comments of someone who is whistling past the graveyard.
This whole GOP thing could get interesting…