Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Will the Virginia GOP Shoot Itself In The Foot In 2016?

As the prior post noted, the attitudes and demographics of the nation are changing and the GOP is faced with shrinking appeal among voters and, but for gerrymandering, Republicans would hold far fewer seats in legislatures across the country. This trend is playing out here in Virginia and one sees time and time again the most extreme elements of the Virginia GOP base desperately clinging to the party's increasingly obsolete agenda of fostering right wing religion and subtle - and sometimes not so subtle - racism.  2016 could be a bell weather year for the Virginia GOP where a refusal to change course could be extremely damaging.  A piece in Outside the Beltway looks at the situation.  Here are highlights:

At the end of this week, the Central Committee of the Republican Party of Virginia will meet to put together plans for the party’s nominating contests in 2016 and, as Norman Leahy and Paul Goldman explain, they could end up making a decision that will make Virginia rather irrelevant to the nomination process next year and harm the Republican Party in the General Election:
[U]nlike most states, Virginia allows its state parties to choose the method of nomination. Recently, Virginia Republicans have made a mockery of the party’s presidential-nomination process. Normally, the state party and its local committees help presidential aspirants get on the ballot. Pro-Clinton Democrats are helping her rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), get on the ballot in New Hampshire. A real party wants to maintain the image of encouraging a free and open nomination contest.

Not so in Virginia. In 2012, only two of the many Republican presidential candidates managed to qualify for the primary because of the state’s restrictive ballot-access law. The traditional help went only to establishment favorite Mitt Romney. Barely 265,000 Republicans bothered to participate in this farce, a drop of 400,000 from the Bush win in 2000. 
The 2012 fiasco made Virginia a cable-news punchline. . . . state GOP leaders NOW seem eager to choose an insular convention system for 2016.
This isn’t a new territory for the Republican Party of Virginia, of course. In 2013, party activists with ties to the Tea Party and the Gubernatorial campaign of Ken Cuccinelli used their power on the committee to force a convention to pick the party’s 2013 statewide candidates rather than a primary.

Jackson lost the Lt. Governor’s race by a huge margin which made clear that even many mainstream Republican voters in the Commonwealth who voted for Cuccinelli could not support him,. Now, virtually the same group of activists who pushed for a convention in 2013 are arguing the party should do the same thing when it picks its Presidential nominee.

Given that Virginia has had a series of close elections since 2008, one would think this is an important concern for party leaders. Additionally, as with the caucuses we see in states like Iowa, conventions can be expensive and inconvenient, especially for people who have families. This means that fewer people participate in your convention, and thus the nominee you pick is more likely to represent a narrow segment of the party that may not play well with the electorate in the fall.

[I]n order for Republicans to win the Presidency they would need to win every state Mitt Romney won in 2012 as well as Ohio, Florida, and Virginia along with at least one other state that President Obama won in the last election. This makes Virginia crucial to the outcome of the election, and anything that the state Republican Party does to potentially make the state less competitive in the fall will have a big impact on the race.  If the committee members are smart, they will stick with a primary. Given the rigidity of the activists who seem to be driving the car in the RPV at the moment, though, don’t be surprised if they do the incredibly foolish thing of choosing a convention.
Conventions are favored, of course, by the Christofascists and other extremists in the Virginia GOP base who seek to insure that extremist candidates who share their insane values - or who will prostitute themselves to them - get the nomination.  They want as little public involvement as possible.

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