THE 2008 VIRGINIA REPUBLICAN PARTY CONVENTION: LESSONS LEARNED

elephantgop.pngYesterday I attended the 2008 Virginia Republican Party Convention.  The affair was nine parts showmanship and all politics.  It was also exciting, heartbreaking and joyful.

I arrived at about 8 AM.  I registered so I could vote and then I went looking for Bob Marshall‘s suite.  That is the place at the convention center where the Marshall folks conducted their campaign operations.  When I arrived, I found the volunteers in prayer (good way to begin the day).  Then they started discussing what people needed to do.  What I did was grab a tee-shirt and a funny hat with a Marshall bumpersticker on it.  After I stuck a small American flag on the top of the hat, I undoubtedly look quite goofy.  Nonetheless, I am a fan of Bob Marshall‘s, and I was not going to let a little embarrassment keep people from knowing it. 

Conventions are almost inevitably disorderly affairs.  Because the people running them are often volunteers, they generally have limited experience.  Moreover, we only have statewide conventions once per year at best, and there is not much opportunity to get any experience.  So the convention started about 20 minutes late.  Then we started going through a bunch of obligatory speeches, and the tension started to build.  Would we win?

Whe I had arrived, I had noticed to my delight that many of the delegates were sporting small Bob Marshall for Senate stickers.  In the convention hall, I now saw that most of the delegates seemed to be waving Bob Marshall signs.  Great!  

Finally the nominating speeches started.  Jim Gilmore‘s speakers were conventional.  They first several cited Gilmore’s accomplishments.  Then we got a long string of delegates proudly seconding Gilmore’s nomination.   While Marshall’s supporters waited patiently, Gilmore’s waved their signs.  

Then dynamics abruptly changed.   When nominating speeches began for Bob Marshall, the crowd roared its approval, and the speakers left no doubt about their heartfelt approval for Bob Marshall.  So how did Jim Gilmore manage to win?  The vote is weighted. 

Composition of Convention

The State Convention shall be composed of delegates and alternate delegates of the respective units they represent. Representation shall be based on a percentage of the total number of Republican votes cast in each county and city in the last gubernatorial and presidential election combined. Each unit is allowed one (1) Delegate Vote for each two hundred fifty (250) Republican votes cast or major portion thereof. Each unit shall be entitled to at least one (1) Delegate Vote. The delegates and alternates shall be elected in county and city mass meetings, party canvasses or conventions that shall be called for this purpose in conformity with the Plan of Organization of the Republican Party of Virginia by each unit committee. (from the 2008-rpv-official-call)

To win, a candidate must compete statewide.  Even if a candidate has the majority of the delegates at the convention, he will lose if those delegates all come from a relatively few parts of the state.  Because Gilmore has already won several statewide races, and because he was backed by the party’s establishment, he began the race with a huge head start.  Unfortunately for Gilmore, he did not consolidate that lead.  Instead of being willing to honorably meet his opponent in serious debate, Gilmore first tried to ignore Marshall.  Then he attacked Marshall’s reputation with transparently silly accusations.  Thus Gilmore threw away his lead and nearly lost the race.

By less than 70 votes, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate yesterday. 

Gilmore squeaked past Del. Bob Marshall at the Republican convention held here, winning 50.3 percent of the vote, or 5,222 votes to Marshall’s 5,156. He will face Democrat Mark Warner, also a former governor, in the November election.  (from here)

Note that the paper provides the weighted vote.  As LtGov Bill Bolling noted from the podium (the convention chairman), there were only about about 4000 delegates attending the convention.

Here are the vote totals (weighted vote) by Congressional district.

Congressional District Jim Gilmore Bob Marshall
1st 491 643
2nd 613 345
3rd 121 75
4th 319 383
5th 667 420
6th 531 507
7th 1036 582
8th 156 145
9th 552 335
10th 160 585
11th 577 1137
Totals 5223 5157

 

Marshall scored most of his victories in Northern Virginia.  See this map.  However, he also did surprisingly well outside of Northern Virginia.  In spite of the many absurd prognostications to the contrary, Marshall ran a competitive race. 

After the election results were announced, Marshall thanked his supporters.  He did not have much to say about Jim Gilmore.  Ironically, perhaps, Marshall seemed to think it appropriate to ignore Gilmore as Gilmore had for the most part ignored him. 

I think Marshall has plans to try again.  Given the simple fact Marshall well exceeded expectations, he has every right to make plans for another run.  In fact, Marshall stayed around to shake the hands of his supporters. 

Thanks in part to the delegates Marshall brought to the convention, the conservative wing of the Republican Party did have cause for celebration.  Jeff Frederick won his election to become the new Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia.  John Hager graciously conceded, and  Frederick thanked Hager for his service to the party. 

What’s Next?

Whatever anyone thinks of Jim Gilmore and his pathetic campaign against Marshall, we are now stuck with him.  That is the lesson that comes from an election such as this.  A tiny number of people could have swayed the vote the other way.  If you had thoughts of attending this convention, but you just could not bring yourself to make the effort, shame on you.

Now the time you could have made a difference is past.  The only realistic alternative is Mark Warner.  By any comparison, Gilmore is the better choice.  Gilmore may be wishy-washy, but when he does make a promise, he keeps it.  Warner?  Well, that is another story.

So we have to choose again.  Will we sit and do nothing?  Or will we make the effort required to see to it the best candidate wins.

Other Views

With only a little touch of bitterness, Bloggers for Bob Marshall provide a good account and pictures (here).

novatownhall blog offers up a string of gripes (here).  The author does not believe the process of tallying the vote totals was properly monitored and suggests the possibility of fraud.  However, he does not know that anything untoward occurred.  Normal procedures do require that people from both campaigns monitor this process, and Marshall certainly had enough people in attendance to monitor the process. 

The Mason Conservative offers his account from the Gilmore supporter perspective (here).  In particular, he takes issue with Pat McSweeney‘s nomination speech for Bob Marshall.  Chris is unhappy that McSweeney did not have anything nice to say about the negative campaign literature that Gilmore dropped on Marshall at the last minute. 

Bearing Drift has a podcast with Gilmore.  This followed his victory (here).  Gilmore is looking ahead, and that is what the rest of us should be doing.

 

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I am just an average citizen interested in promoting informed participation in the political process.
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4 Responses to THE 2008 VIRGINIA REPUBLICAN PARTY CONVENTION: LESSONS LEARNED

  1. J. Tyler Ballance says:

    Nice summation of the result.

    The RPVA provided a voting process that could have been manipulated by the District Chairmen, or those operating the counting machines, or even a few of the people shuffling the collected ballots. Whether any impropriety happened, we will likely not know, unless someone gives a death bed confession, or perhaps an insider rats on someone.

    The root of the suspicions about the process are coming from the visual evidence that there were a lot more people wearing Marshall and Jeff Frederick stickers and many more Marshall signs being waved, yet Gilmore was the reported victor; no recount or audit of the process allowed.

    AFTER the Marshall-Gilmore vote, over five hundred people left who had come just to vote for Marshall, then Jeff Frederick won a landslide victory (over twenty percent margin by some accounts). By both pre-election polling and estimates made at the Convention, it appeared that those supporting Bob were also supporting Jeff, with Jeff having some additional support among the Gilmore “old guard.” It is possible, though implausible, that many of those wearing Hager stickers still voted for Jeff. I don’t know anyone who expected the difference between the Gilmore-Marshall vote and the difference between the Frederick-Hager vote to be substantially different, so how did Jeff get such a huge margin, even though about five hundred of his likely supporters from the Marshall camp took off before the second vote?

    Bob Marshall ran a principled campaign and Virginia has been robbed of the chance to have a truly great statesman in the Senate.

    While I sometimes differ to a small degree on some political points with Mr. Marshall, I know as a fact, that anyone, from any walk of life, can depend on Bob Marshall to place the well being of our People first, and to always support and defend our Constitution.

    Bob Marshall will be back.

    Jeff Frederick will bring a new era of professionalism and integrity to the RPVA and has pledged to ensure that in any races held during his tenure as Chairman, that all of the candidates will be supported in the same way with everyone treated fairly.

  2. I look forward to Bob Marshall being back – actually in front leading for state office.

    Sorry that I didn’t get to meet you Citizen Tom at the Convention.

  3. Citizen Tom says:

    JAB – Same here. I think it would be fun have a chat.

    J. Tyler Ballance – When the checks on the vote counting process are insufficient, that is most unfortunate for both the victor and the loser. It taints the victory. Nonetheless, I don’t know whether the vote count was honest or not. I was not involved in the process, nor did I take the time to observe.

    Until, I have specific evidence to the contrary, I think it best to assume the vote count was honest. Unfounded speculation of this sort may be fun, but it not fair to the reputations of the people involved.

  4. J.R. says:

    You should have stopped by the media row, C.T., would have really enjoyed making your acquaintance.

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