The Conservative Dilemma

On Friday, the Republican Party of Virginia announced that four of the five candidates seeking the Republican nomination for Virginia’s Senate seat had successfully submitted a sufficient number of signatures to appear on the June 12th primary ballot.  These candidates are: George Allen, E.W. Jackson, Bob Marshall, and Jamie Radtke.  Only David McCormick failed to submit any signatures and thus was denied a spot in this contest.

Although many voters likely welcome the opportunity to select between four candidates, this particular situation heavily favors one candidate, George Allen.  Unlike the others, George Allen has held a multitude of political offices including serving as both the Governor of Virginia and a Senator from 2001-2007.  Therefore, due to his decades of political experience and campaigning, he has a much higher name identification rate and a massive campaign war chest when compared to any of the other candidates.

It should be noted that some of George Allen’s positions as well as his votes while serving as a senator do worry some conservative activists.  Although one can find a more extensive article on this subject here, George Allen voted to raise the debt ceiling many times, he voted to strip away our civil liberties via the Patriot Act, and he supported No Child Left Behind.  In addition, his refusal to take a public stance on either NDAA or SOPA may lead some people to believe that he will continue to support big government policies if he is elected senator again.

However, even though there are three alternatives to George Allen, it is highly unlikely that any of these challengers can mount a successful bit to deny the current frontrunner in this present situation.  Collectively, Radtke, Marshall, and Jackson may very well end up with more votes that Mr. Allen in the primary, but as a winning candidate only needs a plurality of the votes and not a majority, it will be difficult for any of the three to do so.  Jamie Radtke has a considerable following among the tea parties, Bob Marshall still has remnants of his loyal followers who nearly propelled him to victory in the 2008 Senate contest, and E.W. Jackson has done quite well among the social conservatives.  Other conservatives will support George Allen due to the belief that he has the best chance of the four to win the seat.  Thus, we find the conservative dilemma.

Recognizing this situation, the ideal solution would be for two of the candidates to withdraw so that voters can decide if they would prefer George Allen or someone who bills him or herself to be a more conservative alternative.  However, at this point, such a move seems unlikely.  Jamie Radtke has been campaigning for well over a year, likely has the best defined campaign, and has spent more time, energy, and money than either Jackson or Marshall.  Jackson continues to electrify audiences with his passionate speeches as has recently expanded his campaign staff.  Marshall, even though he is the newest entrant into the race, still probably commands a higher ID than either of the other two combined.  Thus, believing each is the strongest candidate to face Allen, none of them will withdraw and, chances are, the anti-Allen vote will be split in such a way as to be more or less irrelevant in the June 12th contest.

Will conservatives band together, rejecting two of the others, and rally behind one of the non-Allen candidates?  Conversely, do conservatives believe that George Allen shares enough of their principles to hold this office once again?  And, once the primary is over, can any of the four candidates capture the hearts and minds of conservatives to cobble together a successful coalition of his or her rivals’ supporters and independent voters in order to beat the Democratic nominee former Governor Tim Kaine in November?  What a dilemma!

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