Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rob Bell Slip Up? (Update!)

I've generally ignored the House of Delegates match up this year between Republican Rob Bell and Democrat Cynthia Neff despite its clear importance for Virginia politics long term. Rob Bell had been mentioned as a potential challenger to Tom Perriello next year or a future Attorney General candidate. He certainly has the credentials to move up in politics. Frankly, this race is going to be a blow out and Neff doesn't have enough of a chance for me to even comment on this race. But his recent response to Cynthia Neff's desperate mailer slandering Rob Bell is a slight slip up to an otherwise pitch perfect campaign.

“I have been around numerous campaigns, and expect hard debate on the issues,” Bell wrote. “However, we can all remember how negative mailings filled with innuendo and personal attacks helped defeat Virgil Goode in 2008.”

Two observations. First, Bell represents a swing district but he must been feeling very confident in turnout this fall on the Republican side. Mentioning Virgil Goode and associating himself as an innocent victim of negative mailers, just like Goode, would make sense in a solid red district in the 5th. But John McCain only narrowly won the 58th District (or potentially lost it depending on the allocation of absentee ballots) and Perriello swamped Goode 54% to 46%. This district was actually the center of the McCain-Perriello crossover in the district, so I don't think the swing voters there really have any sympathy for Virgil Goode.

Second, Bell seems to be rewriting the 2008 election. I'm sure we all remember the negative mailings in 2008. They may have helped contribute to Virgil Goode's defeat. But here's the funny thing. They were sent by Virgil Goode. Goode ran the same sort of desperate negative campaign against Perriello that Neff is running against Bell. That didn't help Goode, and it certainly won't help Neff. Game over, congratulations on another term Rob Bell.

Update: Sorry I wasn't clear but when I talk about Perriello swamping Goode 54% to 46% I'm talking specifically about Rob Bell's 58th District in the House of Delegates, not the 5th Congressional District as a whole. Perriello did very, very well in winning over McCain voters in the suburbs around Charlottesville, which is pretty much Rob Bell's district. And not just in Albemarle. Look at Greene County. Perriello won 559 more votes than Obama in Greene County while Goode finished 607 votes behind McCain. That is a lot given the 727 vote margin in the 5th District as a whole. Figuring out what went wrong with McCain voters in the northern end of the district is a key part of defeating Perriello next year.


  1. You make a lot of good points in your post but I have to question one of your numbers. You state that Perriello swamped Goode 54% to 46%. Now Perriello won by about 700 votes if that was an 8% margin then only 8,750 people would have voted. I believe it was closer to 1/2% then to 8%.

  2. Perriello swamped Goode in Rob Bell's House of Delegates district specifically. Sorry I wasn't clear. My point was that Perriello was strongest in the area around liberal Charlottesville and was particularly strong in winning over McCain voters in the Albemarle suburbs. He obviously did not run as strongly against Goode in the rest of the district.