Look out! The Republican Primary in Virginia's 5th District is right around the corner! And the politics of the race are getting really interest as a number of boring establishment Republicans managed to win victories in last night's primaries in Indiana, Ohio, and North Carolina against a divided field of more conservative candidates. The moral of the story? Don't underestimate the ability of big egos to divide the conservative vote!
That there will be seven candidates on the ballot seems to be the only thing we know so far about the primary. Who will win? A lot of people say Robert Hurt. I don't deny that he is the frontrunner, but I do question how overwhelming his campaign is. If the campaign were down to just, say, Hurt and McKelvey, would we really assume that Hurt had this easily? Hurt and Boyd? Hurt and Morton?
At the end of the day, I think most people who vote for Hurt were going to vote for him no matter what and trust him. And at the end of the day, I think most people who don't vote for Hurt were never going to vote for him (in the primary) and the question was/is who they vote for instead.
Hurt obviously has a loyal following and I wouldn't assume that an incumbent State Senator would be showing up to a gun fight with a pencil. But does that make the support Boyd has an Albermarle Supervisor meaningless? Morton from her work in Fluvanna and connections to social conservatives across the district? McKelvey's campaigning across the district?
There's a lot more to the district than just Hurt's State Senate district, which is a fact not only forgotten by Hurt's supporters by Goode's top-down campaign from 2008. Not to blame Goode himself, but someone had to make the decision to run an ad attacking Perriello as a "New York Lawyer" in the media market where his dad had been the doctor for half the kids in the area. Hell, how did you expect "Good Ol' Boy" vs. "Damn Yankee" to play among retirees in Smith Mountain Lake?
Here are some questions to ask when thinking about the primary and watching the results.
1- Hurt may represent a lot of the district as State Senator, but how much of his time has been focused on the non-Pittsylvania/Danville parts of the district? How deep are his roots in Franklin County?
2- How will Hurt be hurt by the Boyers in Campbell County and neighboring Bedford?
3- Between Boyd and Morton, is there any room for Hurt to make ground in the northern counties?
4- I would expect turnout to be light across the rest of the district from Brunswick to Prince Edward to Halifax. In such a low turnout environment, will those counties even matter? And will they be disproportionately effected by dedicated conservative activists?
5- Can Hurt get over 50% of the vote? Anything less seriously endangers him to claims that he won't be able to unite the party. If he wins with 30% of the vote and the support of only Danville and Pittsylvania, how can he unite Republicans behind him? This isn't like running for President were naming a Vice-President can help heal wounds. If Hurt struggles to win shouldn't he make the extra effort to win over conservatives by taking strong stances? Say, supporting the Fair Tax?