- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2008

Members of the Virginia Republican Party are trying to carry the momentum from Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign and the upcoming national convention into next year to energize voters in statewide races.

“It’s a team effort,” said Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, a Republican candidate for governor next year and chairman of the Virginia delegation to the convention. “We want to do everything we can to build a strong organization to win for McCain, and hopefully, that carries over into a strong organization in 2009.”

The Republican Party of Virginia will send more than 120 delegates and alternates to the Republican National Convention, Sept. 1-4 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

Key party members attending the convention say their focus remains largely on getting Virginia residents to vote for Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican, for president. Virginia has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964, but the party’s growing political success in the state could result in voters electing Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, and breaking the streak.

“It’s clearly the most important and highest-profile race that we have right now,” Mr. McDonnell said. “I think especially with Democrats controlling the Congress, our Republican activists and elected officials understand how critically important this election is.”

But state Republicans also are facing a crucial race for the governor’s mansion in 2009: Voters have elected two consecutive Democratic governors and ushered a Democratic majority back into control of the state Senate last year.

Republicans earned an early advantage this year with the formation of a unified ticket, after Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling said he would run for re-election and back Mr. McDonnell’s gubernatorial bid, instead of running for governor on his own.

State Democrats have Delegate Brian J. Moran and Sen. R. Creigh Deeds competing for the governorship. Mr. Moran, of Alexandria, is expected to attend his party’s national convention in Denver next month. Mr. Deeds, of Bath County, did not return a call seeking comment on his attendance.

“There’s nothing wrong with intrasquad scrimmages and a little bit of intraparty competition, but it’s also great when we do have unanimity on things,” said Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick, Prince William Republican, who was named state party chairman in May. “We can spend less time scrimmaging amongst ourselves and more time preparing for the big game.”

Gov. Tim Kaine — a Democrat who has been on the rumored shortlist of Mr. Obama’s potential running mates — also could throw a wrench into the Republican Party’s plans if he leaves his post for the campaign trail or a Cabinet position in an Obama administration.

Mr. Bolling would then step into the governor’s role, causing some to predict that he and Mr. McDonnell could clash over who should run for election next year.

But Larry J. Sabato, founder and director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said such a situation would help Republicans retake the governor’s mansion.

He said Mr. Bolling and Mr. McDonnell told him independently that if Mr. Bolling became governor before the party’s primary or convention next year, Mr. McDonnell would run for re-election as attorney general instead of running for governor.

“Bolling would be the favorite,” Mr. Sabato said. “It’s not bad for the Republican Party; it’s the best thing that could happen to them.”

Mr. Bolling said the national convention - the first he will attend - will serve as a venue for state party leaders to plan for upcoming elections. Mr. McDonnell also said the Kaine situation is “pure speculation,” and if the governor did leave office, “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

“Right now, the party is very unified behind the McDonnell-Bolling ticket in 2009, and we need to make sure we keep that excitement building,” Mr. Bolling said. “The convention will give us a great opportunity to do that.”



Click to Read More

Click to Hide