Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Will Virginia Republicans run a straight Tea Party slate in 2013?

Richmond Tea Party event, April 2010.

With last night's news that Bill Bolling is dropping out of the race for the GOP nomination to run for the Virginia governor's mansion, it is apparent that the "business" or "establishment" wing of the Republican Party of Virginia has completely caved to the Tea Party wing of the Virginia GOP. It is now clear that the RPV's choice for governor will be the extreme, hard-right Ken Cuccinelli. What may not be immediately apparent is how this development may impact down ballot races.

The Republican Party of Virginia decided earlier this year to choose its candidates for statewide offices in 2013 at a state wide Republican convention. Ordinary Virginians who are not part of the RPV apparatus will have no say in choosing the Republican Party's candidates for statewide office.

With the Tea Party having already secured the top place for Cuccinelli, Teahadists will no doubt be fired up and ready to fight hard for their selections for Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General. Establishment Republicans, on the other hand, have already lost their preferred candidate for Governor and may be disinclined to even show up for the RPV convention. The most likely outcome would seem to be a straight Tea Party ticket for the Republican Party of Virginia, chosen without the input of a single independent Virginia voter.

Richmond Tea Party event, April 2010.

When Republicans lose elections, a common theme expressed by conservative partisans is that they lost because the candidate wasn't conservative enough, abandoned far-right principles, and ran to the center. It looks like the Republican Party of Virginia is going to have a chance to test that thesis next year, because the Tea Party is going to deliver a solid, hard-right slate with permission--a mandate really--to run on a far-right platform.

Will Cuccinelli stick to his conservative principles, or will he tack to the center? Will Virginia Republicans moderate their behavior during next year's General Assembly, or will they pursue another hard-right agenda cracking down on women's rights and doubling down on voter suppression? Does the RPV even have the option of moderating, or has the Tea Party taken this option away for the foreseeable future?

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