Posts Tagged ‘Tim Donner’
It is now less than a week before voters go to the polls in Virginia primaries and the most marquee match up of them all has turned out to be anything but exciting. One time senator and governor George Allen will be on the ballot next Tuesday in a primary that his campaign has for the most part publically ignored. Despite a relentless attack from three conservative opponents, there is nothing that indicates that the primary vote will be anything but an easy day for Allen.
It is not from a lack of trying. Each of the candidates has the make up to mimic the kind of uprising that politicians like Allen have faced in other states. Establishment republican candidates like Sen. Dick Lugar in Indiana, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in Texas and Sen. Orrin Hatch in Utah have either lost primaries or been faced into difficult runoff elections or primary votes they were not expecting. Their difficult times are all the result of conservative/tea party support that has coalesced at the right time to push the establishment candidates in to a difficult position.
Despite having all the ingredients for the same type of scenario in Virginia, Allen has survived and arguably thrived as he coasts to the nomination, setting the stage for a one on one titanic showdown with fellow former Gov. Tim Kaine in November.
Why? I’ve come up with five reasons:
1- Divide and Conquer
The fatal mistake the conservative/tea party made came early in this primary campaign. They couldn’t come up with one candidate. By facing three other candidates, Allen has successfully split the loyalty of a small, but active group of voters that would have to be together in order to be successful. Del. Bob Marshall is a hero with social conservatives. Former Tea Party leader Jamie Radtke is popular with the libertarian, fiscally conservative wing (although she is socially conservative herself). Bishop E.W. Jackson is a talented speaker and is able to excite a crowd, but by battling two other challengers, he has been unable to gain any traction.
The lack of outsider unity in challenging the establishment is what drove businessman Tim Donner out of the race. It was something he told me last summer was a necessity in overcoming Allen’s immense natural advantages.
“It is clear that a single challenger to the establishment candidate George Allen will emerge in this race,” he said. He went on to say that if was not him he’d get out-of-the-way. “I will not do anything to impede the conservative movement, and impede the movement of grass-roots conservatives.”
Donner got out, but the other three candidates never came together, and he ended up endorsing Allen.
2- Securing the base
One thing George Allen never forgot about was his base. The base helped him get elected governor and senator and despite losing in 2006, they were still there for him in a losing effort. Allen knew that it was the base that would guarantee him the nomination in 2012.
While his opponents spent a lot of time reaching out to “non-traditional” political groups, like the tea party, Allen appeared at every traditional GOP event that would have him. Women Republican Club Teas, Golf outings for legislators seeking re-election, Congressional Committee meetings. If grassroots republicans were meeting, Allen was there. There was no meeting he was above and many of those still volunteering at these events were raised on his campaigns for governor and senator. They were all too happy to have him and continue to support him.
Allen’s rock solid support from the base was most evident when the influential righty blog Bearing Drift offered their formal endorsement Monday night.
3- Raising money
No matter how hard these candidates tried, there was just no possible way for them to overcome the ability of a former governor and senator to raise money. Money not just from Virginia but from across the country. The massive cash advantage allowed Allen to hire a great deal of full-time staff. It allowed him to travel the state with ease, build a state infrastructure and take away any type of advantage his opponents could hope to muster.
Granted, in the toppling of establishment candidates, the momentum of the movement overwhelmed significant cash advantages. But in Virginia that momentum never materialized and Allen was able to stifle any appearance of it with spending.
4- No high-profile endorsements
Or perhaps this should say.. “no high-profile endorsements of anyone but Allen”. Allen quickly gobbled up the endorsement of Gov. Bob McDonnell, Rep. Eric Cantor and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling. He successfully (at least for now) kept the unpredictable Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli out of the race and even earned the support of high-profile tea party favorites like Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI).
Meanwhile, his opponents stumbled over opportunities to get national voices to endorse their campaign and bring with it the attention that could lead to money and momentum. Former Alaska governor and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who has offered her support in a few of these races, has seem disinterested in joining the fray, despite her similarities with Radtke. South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint has been noticeably absent. Radtke thought she had the endorsement of influential republican blogger Erik Erickson, only to have it taken away after an embarrassing conflict at Erickson’s annual Red State event.
This category is in flux because one of these endorsements could still come in with less than a week to go. But the chances of it having a game changing impact at this point are slim.
5- Hard work
This category might be best illustrated through a personal anecdote. It was December of 2010, a cold night in South Richmond. Former Senator George Allen was scheduled to appear at a forum on education with former DPVA chair Paul Goldman. I had received a press advisory so I thought it would be worth it to check it out. Allen had not announced his plans to run, but everyone assumed he was going to. Keep in mind this was just a little less than two years before the 2012 election.
I got to a small community center on the south side and there was no one there. Literally. The doors were locked. We had to be let in by a night janitor. We thought we were in the wrong place. He told us no, there was something happening, but we were just a little early.
About 20 minutes later, a few people trickled in. By the time it was time for the event to start, there may have been 20 people in attendance. Allen was among them. A one time governor, senator and even potential candidate for president came in ready to wax poetic on his thoughts on school choice and private/public education partnerships to a group about the size of a small church choir. We talked for a bit about his potential campaign, and then we left. He stayed. The event was scheduled to go for two hours, on a weeknight, three weeks before Christmas.
I said to my photographer Jerry Brown as we were leaving “there is NO way this guy is not running.”
Of course he was, and of course he knew what it was going to take to win. This is not to suggest that any of Allen’s opponents have not been working just as hard. I believe they actually are. But the difference between Allen and his contemporaries in other states is that they assumed that being who they were was enough to win. 2006 was clearly a wake up call for a man who did not really know what it was like to fail and its clear he doesn’t want something like that to happen again.
Now, I firmly believe that we truly have no idea what could happen on Tuesday and I am confident to leave the outcome to the voters. The point of this post was to illustrate why I believe Allen is in a strong position to win. The hardest part for this Virginia political heavyweight is that the hard work hasn’t really begun. If he is fortunate to get past this initial test, he has the biggest fight of his political life ahead of him.
Just one of the many reasons it will be the most watched race in the country.
It is a race that will be closely watched throughout the country. This afternoon, George Allen and Tim Kaine will face off in their first head to head debate of 2012 U.S. Senate campaign.
The debate will be streamed live on TimesDispatch.com and we will have complete coverage tonight on NBC12 and a complete wrap here on Decision Virginia.
As we prepare for the debate, I thought I’d take a look back and some of the things both candidates have said leading up to today.
Allen & The Tea Party:
This debate has received quite a bit of criticism because the Associated Press and the Capitol Correspondents Association decided against including lesser known primary opponents. The Tea Party plans to protest on behalf of their candidate Jamie Radtke. Tim Donner also put out a statement saying today is a “distressing day”. Allen has worked to fight back claims that he is not in line with the Tea Party. Here is what he told me shortly before he announced his intentions about his conservative credentials.
Kaine & President Obama
The Allen Camp has worked hard to make sure that Governor Kaine is linked to President Obama as often as possible. For his part, Kaine rarely wiggles out of that claim. He is proud of his friendship with the president, but tries to point out areas where they disagree. This is what he told me after the president’s recent visit to the University of Richmond:
And one of the areas where he parts from Obama is on capital gains taxes. Listen to his response on the Obama plan to raise revenue through increases in that area.
Allen & Macaca
Try as he might, Allen cannot escape that ill-fated moment on the campaign trail from 2006. He has repeatedly apologized, but democrats do not seem willing to let it go. Here is how he explained it to me on First at 4:00:
“I thought of it as a nonsense word. If I had known the nickname could be considered a racial slur, I would not have said it,” he wrote in his book ,What Washington Can Learn From The World Of Sports. “I apologized to him and take full responsibility for the remark and its aftermath, which should have been handled much better.”
Meanwhile, Kaine and his team are not willing to let the past be the past. During another First at 4:00 interview Kaine said “We are both going to be judged on what we have done and what we’ve said.. And that is fair.” His quote comes towards the end of the interview:
Uncomfortable moments for Allen & Kaine:
Having interviewed both candidates close to a half a dozen times since they became candidates, we have attempted to pin them down on some issues they weren’t necessarily eager to talk about. For Governor Kaine it came during the battle over the debt ceiling. I gave him the chance to weigh in on President Obama’s role in the fight en-light of a vote he took against the debt ceiling when he was Senator. Kaine chose to punt on the question.. telling me he “wasn’t a student of that vote.”
On the other side of the coin, Allen bobbed and weaved for more than 8 minutes when I tried to pin him down on whether he would vote “yes” or “no” on Rep. Paul Ryan’s controversial budget plan. He said to me “go ahead and ask the democrat’s question”
One thing is clear, these two men are political titans of the highest caliber. These interviews show them at their best, staying on message and driving home their point.
This afternoon will be fun.
It may not tell us too much. One of the votes won’t happen for 10 months, the other is almost two years away, but 2012 and 2013 could be extremely competitive in the Virginia Republican world, and even though the elections are far away we are getting our first sense of the mood of the Grand Old Party.
Public Policy Polling, a respected automated polling firm out of North Carolina, conducted the poll of republican primary voters and put statistics behind most observers conventional wisdom. The 1st take away: the Senate GOP primary is not very competitive, and the 2nd point: if Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wants to run for governor, there is little to stop him.
First the senate primary, which is first on the docket according to the calendar. The results are stark and provide little hope to the potential challengers to front-runner George Allen. Here are the numbers:
George Allen: 68%
Jamie Radtke: 8%
Tim Donner: 2%
E.W. Jackson: 2%
David McCormick: 0%
Even if all the challengers joined forces and brought the undecideds with them, they would still fall short of even making Allen sweat. It is early, but I have to imagine this group was hoping for something a bit more encouraging.
The race for governor is not until 2013, but the whispers about the potential Cuccinelli vs. Bolling showdown began not long after both posted convincing wins on election night 2009. Cuccinelli has effectively used his AG bully pulpit to endear himself to the very primary voters that decide who goes on to the general election. Bolling hasn’t hurt himself and has certainly made the most of his position as the Commonwealth’s “Chief Job’s Czar” at a time when jobs and the economy are the top issue.
This poll, however, shows that Cuccinelli’s crusades against the Obama Administration and on behalf of other conservative causes, have served him well.
Here are the numbers:
Unlike the senate poll, the pool of undecideds is significant here, and if you look at beyond the numbers both Cuccinelli and Bolling are very much liked by republican voters. It is not that republicans don’t like Bill Bolling, they just happen to like Ken Cuccinelli a lot more.
Further proof that when the dust settles on the 2012 race, Cuccinelli will more than likely be in the driver’s seat. If he wants a crack at the Executive Mansion, he will get that chance. The question is.. will he want it or is he interested in something else?
The full breakdown of the PPP poll, which includes a lot of interesting data on favorability ratings and Virginia’s view of the GOP presidential field can be found here.
Four “alternatives” to George Allen equals Allen sailing to victory in the Virginia republican primary for U.S. Senate.
“No question, the mathematics are such that one of us must emerge,” Donner said during a lengthy interview on Wednesday in Richmond.
Donner, who much like his other non-Allen GOP primary opponents, found hope in other states that sent non- establishment picks into the Republican primaries of 2010. Much of the success of candidates like Rand Paul in Kentucky and Ron Johnson in Wisconsin came through grass-roots activism and the presence of one clear alternative to the front-runner.
If the same scenario is to repeat itself in Virginia, the field will have to thin out.
“It is clear that a single challenger will to the establishment candidate George Allen will emerge in this race,” Donner said.
One year away from the primary vote, Donner feels confident that he will be that candidate. But as the vote gets close and if the field remains full, Donner is prepared to do what he has to so that the movement can coalesce around one candidate.
“I would hope that is the case, because that is the way I feel.” Donner said. “I will not do anything to impede the conservative movement, and impede the movement of grass-roots conservatives.”
But Donner was quick to point out that before a ballot is cast, it might not be clear just who had the best shot at winning. He believes that in a primary, which traditionally draws a very low but engaged turnout, handicapping the field is difficult.
“It is a state of 8 million, but it is likely that 150 thousand or 200 thousand people will vote in this primary,” Donner said. “And funny things happen in primaries.”
You can see an extended clip of my interview with Tim Donner below.
It may be the most coveted endorsement in the Republican Primary for U.S. Senate. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, while controversial overall, is beloved by the conservative wing of the Republican Party. In a race with one clear front runner and several long shots, a well placed nod from the right wing rock star could mean the difference between an expected outcome and a shocking upset.
For the record, Cuccinelli may not play a role in the primary at all, but in typical fashion he is not ruling anything out. His political spokesman Noah Wall made it clear that in the short term, the Attorney General is not getting involved.
“We have not endorsed in the 2012 Senate race,” Wall said “And have no plans to make any endorsement this year.”
But 2011 will be over soon and come January, Cuccinelli may receive a full court press from those hoping for an upset.
Among them? Tim Donner, the wealthy Northern Virginia businessman with virtually zero name recognition. Donner recently posted photos of him with Cuccinelli at the Fairfax City Republican Committee meeting.
Donner and Cuccinelli seem to have quite a bit in common and the candidate said he would welcome the support of the Attorney General.
“I would be honored to have Ken Cuccinelli’s endorsement,” Donner said “He and I agree on most important matters.”
But Donner and every other candidate in the GOP primary will have to wait.
“We’ve been clear with all candidates about our position on that race,” said Wall.
That includes Jamie Radtke, the former Tea Party leader from Chesterfield and a longtime supporter of Cuccinelli. Much like Donner, Radtke and Cuccinelli are in agreement on most fiscal and social issues. Unlike Donner, Radtke doesn’t have an incredible amount of money to fall back on and a well placed Cuccinelli endorsement could give her campaign the type of late momentum that could surprise the field.
For now, Team Radtke isn’t concerning themselves with that potential scenario.
“Jamie respects Attorney General Cuccinelli’s desire to not endorse a candidate in the Senate primary until next year.” said Chuck Hansen, Radtke’s spokesman.
And then there is George Allen, the candidate that stands to lose the most if Cuccinelli decides to get involved. While Radtke, Donner and the others appear to be willing to fight the good fight, there is little indication that their campaigns have had much resonance. Allen rarely refers to his primary opponents and has drawn all of his distinctions with the likely democratic nominee, Tim Kaine.
Allen has more money, more name recognition and a longer resume that the rest of the field combined. His only drawback could be a potential fatigue and desire for something new. However those alternatives may never get a voice without a serious boost. A boost that someone like Cuccinelli can bring.
Allen meanwhile continues to run as if the primary is nothing more than a minor stumbling block. Most political insiders agree. Bearing Drift, the leading conservative voice on the internet, said last week that Kaine is Allen’s only “meaningful opponent“.
When asked if he is seeking Cuccinelli’s endorsement his spokesperson Katie Wright told me “Governor Allen is actively seeking the support of all Republican activists, leaders and elected officials, as well as Independents and conservative Democrats.”
That sounds a lot more like a campaign concerned about the general election, not a primary.
Until the field of primary opponents can shock the landscape with a boost similar to the endorsement of someone like Cuccinelli, expect it to remain that way.
**Decision Virginia Note: Ryan Nobles is scheduled to sit down for an interview with Republican Primary candidate Tim Donner Wednesday afternoon. It is their first interview of the primary campaign. Look for more on that interview Wednesday evening.
It is the first major battle of the 2012 campaign and George Allen is smack dab in the middle of it. The fallout from Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan‘s budget plan, that includes an overhaul to Medicare, was considered at least a part of what destroyed the campaign of an Upstate NY candidate in a special congressional election.
In the wake of its impact on the NY-26 campaign, both sides are using the passionate feelings about the delicate issue as a tool to prop up and beat down candidates running in 2012.
For most it is a simple question: Would you support the Ryan plan if elected? For Republicans, the answer is usually “yes”, for Democrats a definite “no”. Few though are in the difficult position that George Allen is. While he is running as a Republican he faces a fierce challenge on the right from several candidates who subscribe to the Tea Party mantra. His primary opponents have no problem supporting Ryan, because their niche bases are fully on board.
For instance: Jaime Radtke, a former Tea Party leader, she is a “yes” and even sent Allen a letter asking for clarification on his stance.
And Tim Donner, he too is a “yes“.
But Allen, rarely mentions his primary opponents by name and talks more like he is running a general election. While hard-core republicans are supportive of the Ryan plan the public at large is a little less enthusiastic. That soft support puts Allen in a position where he clearly doesn’t feel comfortable saying “yes” or “no”, primarily because it puts him in a no-win situation. A “no” vote could incite the ire of the Tea Party wing of the party, a “yes” vote could be a tool used against him in a general election.
So instead, Allen puts up with questions about the Ryan plan, but won’t tell any reporter, specifically, how he would cast his vote.
Believed me, I tried.
“I’m not going to tell you,” Allen said stopping short before re-grouping, and responding “I’m going to tell you what I am for.”
As soon as I began a lengthy exchange on the Ryan plan, Allen made sure I knew what he thought about the line of questioning.
“You can ask for the Democrats, they like playing politics,” he said.
Allen contends that marginalizing his stance on just “yes” or “no” doesn’t really tell the whole story.
“For the democrats to carry on about this though is so disingenuous,” he said. “If they don’t like Ryan’s plan, if they don’t like my plan or anybody else’s plan of action come up with something. They have not even passed a budget for two years. This is the height of hypocrisy.”
Like many republicans in a tough spot with the controversial plan, Allen likes parts of Ryan’s proposal, but believes he can approve upon it. When I asked if that meant a “no” vote, he told me it was not that simple.
“I think you ought to be open to a variety of ideas that are coming forward and discuss them with the American people,” he said. ” Most people aren’t familiar with any of these proposals right now.”
And even though he could be hit with the question many times between now and election day, the man who has dealt with the parsing of his words for political benefit for almost 20 years seems content to not get trapped this time.
“I am not a U.S. Senator,” he reminded me. “If I were a U.S. Senator I would have to vote yes or no.”
The entire discussion on the Ryan proposal can been seen below:
Kaine joined me for an extensive conversation on the U.S. Senate race Tuesday on NBC12 First at 4.
For a man who once dithered on getting in, Kaine assured his supporters that he is prepared to do whatever it takes to win the seat.
“I never do anything unless I do it all in,” he said. “and I’m all in to win this race.”
Kaine has spent the bulk of the past three years as the chief cheerleader for President Barack Obama as the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. But while he was an unabashed supporter of Obama’s policies during his time at the DNC, Kaine is now slowly working his way back to the middle. A prime example is his support of the deficit reduction plan promoted by a bi-partisan group of Senators referred to as the “gang of 6.” A plan that balances both spending cuts and tax increases.
“It’s going to take a while to get back to the flight path that works,” Kaine said. “I’m supporting (an) effort..to look at all options. Dramatic reductions in expenses, but revenues, as well.”
Kaine’s experience is completely from the domestic prospective, a far cry from the man he is hoping to replace. Jim Webb is a Senate leader on foreign policy matters. According to Kaine, President Obama has taken the right course in the Libyan conflict, even though the U.S. has not appeared to be the nation leading the charge.
“It’s not up to us to be the police force,” said Kaine. “But on a humanitarian mission like this, we should join with other nations”.
Many believe this Senate race, which could end up pitting two Virginia political titans in a race for the ages, could get ugly. The leading republican candidate, former Senator George Allen has won twice at the statewide level. However his last race, against Webb, ended in a loss after an embarrassing moment where he called a democratic campaign staffer a “macaca”. Allen has worked hard to atone for the faux paux, but Kaine refused to take it off the table as a potential campaign tactic in 2012.
“We’re both going to be judged on what we’ve done and what we’ve said, and that’s fair,” he said.
Allen is currently in a primary with four other announced GOP candidates. Chesterfield Tea Party activist Jamie Radtke, attorney David McCormick, bishop E.W. Jackson and the newest entrant, Northern Virginia media entrepreneur Tim Donner.
You can see the entire interview with Governor Kaine below. The transcript is available on NBC12.com.