Allen looks to coalesce Tea Party support with Johnson endorsement
The name Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) probably doesn’t mean much to the average voter in Virginia. But U.S. Senate candidate George Allen (R) wasn’t necessarily looking to impress the “average” voter when he announced Johnson’s support of his campaign and then brought him on the stump with him Friday in Richmond.
Johnson is a wealthy businessman who ran a largely self-financed campaign to sweep long time liberal Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) from office. Johnson received a great deal of support from the Tea Party and is happy to be associated with the movement. A fiscal deficit hawk, Johnson supports deep spending cuts and is strongly opposed to the health care reform act and the federal stimulus.
Allen has a lukewarm connection with tea partiers in Virginia. One of the most prominent tea party leaders in the Commonwealth, Chesterfield’s Jamie Radtke decided to run against him in the upcoming republican primary. He has had a mixed success appealing to local tea party groups as he looks to seal up the nomination. Allen rarely appeals directly to the tea party but once said he was an “original member” of the tea party.
Allen’s biggest problem with the Tea Party comes from his last time in the Senate. Six years of supporting largely Republican led proposals that bumped up the federal debt and is a period of time that hard-core Tea Party members are very critical of. Johnson’s visit to Virginia it allowed his critics to remind voters about that time in office. Both Radtke on the right and the democrats on the left were all to eager to dredge up the past.
Radtke released a very critical web video that called Allen out for his support for “40,000 earmarks”. Web videos rarely have widespread appeal, but Radkte got a big bump when PolitiFact Virginia chose to rate the claim. Their “mostly true” rating pushed the video to a much wider audience. (It was in our PolitiFact Virginia report this week on NBC12). Democrats meanwhile had a field day pointing out the mixed message Allen has had with earmarks, saying he was “proud” of the ones he had brought back to Virginia and said they were ok, as long as they were accompanied by detailed information as to who proposed them.
Johnson worked to rein in the criticism of Allen in event today at Bill’s BBQ in Richmond. He strongly supported the former governor and senator’s leadership skills. Johnson argued that while progress is being made in Washington, real change hasn’t occurred because the Congress needs more people with Allen’s experience and ability to bring people together. He also said that Allen’s first go around in Washington was much different than things are now.
“Last time George Allen was in the senate we had manageable deficits,” said Johnson. ”Nobody liked them at all, but at least they were manageable.”
Despite the lack of rousing support from the Tea Party, there is simply no evidence that Allen is suffering. The few polls taken on the GOP primary show him with very large leads and he is neck and neck with his democratic opponent Tim Kaine in just about every poll. It is clear that Allen’s effort to reach out to that wing of the party is subtle. When we asked him about what role they will play in his election, he said they were important but went out of his way not to single them out.
“We are getting good support from a lot of folks,” Allen said, he went on to say, “We are welcoming every one to the A- Team.”
This won’t be the end of Allen’s effort and it will likely continue beyond the primary. The Republican nominee, no matter who they may be, will want the passionate support of the Tea Party to help push them over the hump come November in what is destined to be a razor thin election.
See clips from our interview with Johnson and Allen below:
The full release from today’s Allen event with Johnson can be found after the jump:
George Allen and Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) Host Small Business Roundtable at Bill’s Barbecue in Richmond
Henrico, VA – Today, George Allen and Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) met with small business leaders at a roundtable discussion at Bill’s Barbecue in Richmond, where Allen outlined his positive vision for Virginia and his Blueprint for America’s Comeback. This is the latest in a series of town hall-style meetings where George Allen heard from local business leaders about their concerns and discussed his proven solutions to create jobs, reduce gasoline prices and make America competitive again.
In opening remarks, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) announced his endorsement of George Allen and spoke from his perspective as a small business owner why he’s looking forward to working with him as a partner in the U.S. Senate.
“After spending 31 years in the manufacturing business, I have experienced first-hand the burden Washington places on small businesses,” said Senator Ron Johnson. “We need more like-minded allies in Washington who know we can’t borrow, tax and spend our way to prosperity. George Allen has a record of standing up for job-creators and fighting against Washington’s job-destroying regulations and overspending that is threatening the survival of small businesses in Virginia and across the country. I look forward to having George Allen as a partner in the U.S. Senate.”
“It’s time for Washington to start listening to the small business owners and entrepreneurs here in Virginia and come together to eliminate the burdensome regulations stifling the very job-creators we need to reinvigorate our economy,” said George Allen. “Massive tax hikes, burdensome regulations and Washington political gimmicks won’t do anything to help create jobs or families fill up their gas tanks — it will only make things worse. We need a positive vision and proven, pro-job growth solutions to empower small businesses to invest, expand and hire, unleash our energy resources and make America competitive again. I want to see a hassle-free government serving and helping small business owners and letting consumers decide who has the best product or service rather than hindering and impeding us.”
Rhoda Elliot, owner of several Bill’s Barbecue restaurants in the greater-Richmond area said, “I thank George Allen and Senator Ron Johnson for coming to Bill’s Barbecue and listening to the concerns and challenges of small business leaders in our area.”
Allen, Johnson At Odds Over Earmarks
As Anti-Earmarker Ron Johnson Visits VA, Will George Allen Explain What Made Him So “Proud” Of “Every Single Earmark” He Sponsored As A Senator?
Richmond, VA – Just one week ahead of his first primary debate with Tea Party challengers Radtke, Jackson, and Marshall, George Allen is trotting out Tea Party darling Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson. As a Senator, Johnson co-sponsored the “Earmark Elimination Act of 2011″ — making his visit to Virginia today to campaign with ‘proud’ Senate earmarker George Allen even more awkward. Johnson’s endorsement is just the latest attempt by George Allen to disguise a career-long record of big spending.
“No amount of elbow-rubbing from the Tea Party will erase the $3 trillion George Allen added to our national debt or the tens of thousands of earmarks he supported as a Senator,” said Kaine for Virginia Communications Director Brandi Hoffine. “Time and again, George Allen has promised Virginians that he would govern as a ‘fiscal conservative.’ But instead, he grew spending by more than 45 percent as Governor and turned a record surplus into a record deficit as Senator. Now, he’s campaigning for reelection on the same hypocritical rhetoric of fiscal responsibility, but Virginians aren’t buying it. In fact, the harder George Allen tries to rewrite his fiscally reckless record, the more obvious it is that he helped create our economic problems during his last term in the Senate and has no solutions to fix them.
“There’s only one candidate in this race with a proven record of balancing budgets and cutting spending, and that’s Tim Kaine.”
Johnson’s rescue mission to Virginia to help excite conservatives who aren’t buying Allen’s claims of fiscal conservatism must be particularly embarrassing for Allen who likes to call himself the “original tea partier.”