Cantor claims GOP unified in VA-5, while Democrats exploit divisions
Depending on who you talk to, you get a dramatically different picture of exactly what is going on in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District. Leading Republicans, like House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, believe the right has unified behind the clear victor from Tuesday’s primary, State Senator Robert Hurt. Democratic party operatives however are selling a much different story, one of unhappy divisions amongst different right leaning factions that could be enough to allow incumbent Tom Perriello to cruise to victory.
Cantor, who was an early supporter of Hurt, believes that his ability to garner almost 50% of the vote in a primary with multiple candidates, is evidence that Republicans will get behind the nominee. “I think that reflects his strength in the district,” said Cantor. “He is a conservative Southside Virginian.”
But while party loyalists, who always vote Republican are probably safely in the Hurt campaign, it is the far more unpredictable members of the local Tea Parties who are no guarantee to support the GOP candidate. Democrats have spent the last two days pushing stories that show different factions of the Tea Parties splitting from the nominee and Hurt’s opponents not rushing to give them their support. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released this video that is designed to remind those who aren’t too sure about Hurt, the reasons why he wasn’t their candidate during the primary.
Republicans though are banking on the hope that those on the right unhappy with Hurt, really don’t have anywhere else to go. Aside from a longshot write-in campaign for a yet to emerge candidate, the only other independent option is the little known Jeffrey Clark. Clark is expected to have a line in November, provided his petition to get on the ballot is accepted. Cantor is hoping that those in search of limited government and conservative principles realize that Hurt is a better option than sending the incumbent back to Washington.
“He (Perriello) has voted for the stimulus plan, he voted for the cap-and-trade plan and he voted for President Obama’s trillion-dollar health care overhaul,” said Cantor. “I can assure you that if you ask the people of the 5th district, those are votes, they don’t agree with.”
But many Tea Party supporters don’t appear to have a problem with just sitting it out. The Lynchburg Tea Party has decided they won’t endorse anyone. Bradley Rees, the outspoken one time candidate tweeted that he will not compromise even if it means sending Perriello back to Washington. “Your choices,” Rees wrote. “Stand on principle for long-term solutions, or sacrifice principle for short-term (& short-lived) satisfaction.” Rees is now supporting Clark. UPDATE: Rees contacted me to say he is actually still “collecting his thoughts” on the outcome of the primary.
While most of Hurt’s primary opponents have endorsed the nominee, still lingering out there is the support of Hurt’s closest rival, Jim McKelvey. McKelvey put out a statement in the wake of his loss on Tuesday but refused to weigh in on who he will vote for in November. McKelvey did however write: “We, as conservatives, must be unified to defeat Tom Perriello this November. And, we must do this now.”
It is difficult to quantify the impact that all of these different moving parts will have on the actual vote come November. Each county in the sprawling 5th district has its own Tea Party chapter and there is certainly no unity in their perspective. Expect the only consistent message on GOP dysfunction to come from Democrats, who have the most to gain by the right not speaking with the same voice.
FLASHBACK: we discussed this possible scenario with RNC Chairman Michael Steele back in December.
You can see the extended clip from Rep. Cantor’s comments below: