Candidates are like automobile tires. The fresher they are, the less mileage, less wear, better grip of the road-or of the public. However, the longer they run, the more run down they get. Some run down fast, others not so much.
Key Word: “Former”
Key Questions: Are they still relevant? Can they still win an election?
The two men offer very different postures. Senator Allen was the young firebrand GOP of the early 1990’s, focusing on tax cuts and law and order. He was Tea Party before there was a Tea Party. The problem was that (1) he went to Washington in 2001 and voted for all of George Bush’s spending and (2)lost in the worst way in 2006. It is not so much that he lost per se…it was a horrible year for the GOP, and the Washington Post was so partisan that the WaPo Ombudsman apologized for their coverage. Nonetheless, the whole Macaca incident, and the manner in which the Allen campaign handled the misstep, was terrible. It spoke of a certain chutzpah that they thought nothing of concern had happened and got caught up in old-style campaigning. Senator Allen, with revelations of his Jewish roots, came across as a man clearly uncomfortable in his own skin. He went from huge favorite to huge upset, and the results suggested that perhaps his support was wide and not deep.
Delegate Black is a little different. A Pro-Life advocate who once sent toy fetuses to his colleagues to underscore his arguments, he got whacked in 2005, and his endorsed candidates fared poorly in 2007. Shaking off his endorsement failures, Black decided to run for the GOP nomination in Va-1 after the death of Joann Davis. Black didn’t live in Va-1…in fact, he lived almost on the other side of the state, but he did the geography fandango and rented an apartment in Fredericksburg, and gave up the lease after the GOP nominating convention informed him that in fact there were qualified individuals already in living in Va-1 who could support his causes.
Both Allen and Black are talking comeback. Allen in 2012 in a re-match against Jim Webb, and Black in 2011 in a Virginia Senate campaign. There is uncertainly for Black who he would run against, due to redistricting between now and then.
Back to those questions-are they still relevant, or have they lost their gripping power like rubber retreads eventually do?
Personally, I think they have both passed their freshness dates. Allen’s Senate record on spending belies his record as governor, and Black’s record was made during a period when social wedge issues carried the day, and not more fundamental items like spending, defense, and general safety. More critical is that neither seems to be able to stay away from the verbal faux pas. It may be Black’s comparing those who backed Obama in 2008 to drunk college students, or Allen challenging the democrats in 1995 saying he would “Knock their soft teeth down their whiny throats”, or in 2006 saying “I even eat ham sandwiches” to say he was not Jewish (when Jewishness is considered by many a matter of blood on one’s mothers side…which would mean he is).
Elected officials rise up based on the issues of a moment or an era. Some push a philosophy…which can mean multiple issues over the years. Others push an issue…which means the issue has to stay on the front burner or else said politico loses tread.
In addition, neither one has created a new identity for themselves. Any news story about Dick Black will mention plastic fetuses if given half a chance, and the same for Allen and Macaca and allegations of racism.
Dick Black came to prominence riding the wedge issues of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s…but those wedge issues have lost their road grip due to more pressing issues (see my piece comparing GOP wedge issues and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs). Is the Loudon GOP better off with him or someone who is more in step with today’s critical issues? George Allen’s voting in the US Senate undermines the conservatism of his term as Governor, and his campaign missteps in 2006 must make one wonder if he should be given the ball in what should be a very winnable opportunity in 2012.
Now is the time to consider these questions, before you put the old tires on the car and have a blowout on the road to election day…and all the evidence you can see now suggests that while you may end up having to use the old tires, the GOP in Loudoun and Virginia had best consider all the tires they can go with before settling on the retreads.