On the face of it, Perriello should be the year's most vulnerable Democratic incumbent. In 2008, he won his sprawling, largely rural district -- it stretches from academic Charlottesville down to this gritty former industrial stronghold on the North Carolina border -- by all of 727 votes out of a total of some 317,000. Barack Obama lost the district by more than 7,500 votes.Read E.J. Dionne Jr.'s "Virginia's 5th District race may say a lot about the electoral landscape."
The normal course for a Democrat in a Southern countryside district would be to declare himself a conservative, ally with the Republicans on as many roll calls as possible and tell the president to find his votes elsewhere.
Perriello didn't do that. Instead, he supported the stimulus package, the cap-and-trade bill and health-care reform. Not only that, he proudly defends his votes and sees the administration as being not forceful enough in presenting its program as a coherent effort to deal with the nation's biggest problems.
To me, the choice faced by voters in Virginia's 5th Congressional District is simple. Tom Perriello has taken on the tough problems his constituents face. By way of contrast, Robert Hurt has seen fit to duck every debate with Perriello. I was always under the impression that if you wanted a job, you showed up for the job interview.
Seriously, if Robert Hurt can't trouble himself to stand before the people of the 5th, face his opponent, and make the case for his candidacy, then what makes anyone think that he'll fight for Virginians in Congress? Hurt would become another do nothing Republican on the lines of Eric Cantor. The only people who would get Robert Hurt's help are those who could afford to pay for it.
Tom Perriello has been called the "hardest working man in Congress" and the people of Virginia's 5th Congressional District would be smart to keep Perriello where he can do them the most good: in Congress.