There's a little bit of a tempest in a tea pot over at the conservative blog Bearing Drift over the 5th District's tug of war between Rob Hurt and the other, more conservative, candidates in the race. I want to respond, in time, but I would also like to continue my trend of providing constructive insight into Rob Hurt, the man and the myth.
To do so I am starting a series of posts designed to draw out some of the reasons why people are advocating Rob Hurt as the Republican nominee. In most cases I will criticize these reasons as insufficient, but I don't want to be declared victorious over a straw man opponent. I hope you, the loyal reader, will keep me in check.
So, on to Part I. What I call, "Rob Hurt, the Hometown Hero."
The argument, which I've already lampooned a bit, is that Rob Hurt is the hometown hero of the 5th District. To exaggerate every so slightly, he's the white knight who will slay the Perri-losi-saurus. Rowr!
It is true that Rob Hurt has roots in Pittsylvania County just outside of Danville. As I pointed out, he comes from a background of affluence and privilege. He is not the average man of the 5th District, but he's not that bad of a fit for a rural district that has usually elected politicians from the group of governing small business owners, lawyers, local bankers, and the like. Which is a pretty good description of what the 5th District used to be and how some old timers like Virgil Goode and Tucker Watkins still see it as. But, newsflash, the district has grown rapidly in many areas.
The irony is the same supporters of this line of reasoning refuse to accept that Tom Perriello is a native born son of the 5th District and his late father was a well respected doctor in the Charlottesville community. I think some crazies are still looking for Tommy Boy's papers from Ellis Island, which will be found right next to Obama's Kenyan Birth Certificate. The "New York Lawyer" attack against Perriello fell flat in 2008, but some Hurt supporters seem to believe that if they just keep up the line it will eventually defeat Perriello.
Also, Tom Perriello defeated Virgil H. Goode, Jr., in 2008. The same Goode that had been representing the district since 1996. The same Goode that had been representing parts of the district since the 1970s. The same Goode with a highway, courthouse, and God know's what else named after his father. You want to talk about a hometown hero? A local boy done good? Virgil H. Goode, Jr.
Besides, how well known is Rob Hurt in the 5th District? Really? No, really. Polling on name ID of down-ballot statewide candidates shows a real lack of name ID. What makes us think that Rob Hurt is really that well known?
Consider his old House of Delegate's district now represented by Don Merricks, the 16th District. The fightin' 16th! A little less than 9% of 5th District voters in 2008 were in the 16th District. His new State Senate District? About 20%, with some overlap between the two (the 16th has parts of Henry and Martinsville, the 19th State Senate District does not). Even when you add in that Hurt may have enough coverage in the Roanoke and Lynchburg papers to boost his name ID a little bit, I have a hard time seeing how he has name ID above 15%, maybe 20%.
Rob Hurt doesn't have the name ID to win the election against Tom Perriello. He, or any other nominee, will have to actually campaign. Which may be a unique concept to some! Now that a primary has been selected, the nominee will by definition be a candidate who went out, campaigned, and won over enough voters to win. This will elevate their name ID! So there's no need to argue that Hurt has to be the nominee over another candidate because that candidate doesn't have the name ID to win. That's the point of campaigning. To build name ID!
I also want to address the idea that Rob Hurt is somehow uniquely popular in his district. Hurt has had only two real election fights, in that he's had two elections in which a Democrat even opposed him: 2001 and 2003. In 2001 he received 64.99% of the vote and won all three localities in his district. In 2003 he received 61.64% of the vote and narrowly lost the portion of Martinsville in his district. And in 2008 Virgil Goode received 59.21% in the 16th District. Is that what this comes down to? A potential 2% of the vote (in a district that is less than 9% of the congressional district) that Hurt may or may not be picking off from Democrats in low turnout elections where the difference is more likely due to who is showing up?