What Tom Davis SaidPolitics

The WaPo’s Robert McCartney has a piece on the travails facing, and self-inflicted wounds affecting, Virginia Republicans. It covers little new ground, though McCartney adds Mark Obenshain’s concession in the AG race to the list of horribles.

But then McCartney begins to quote former Rep. Tom Davis:

Republican Tom Davis, a former U.S. congressman from Fairfax, said the 2013 election “should be a wake-up call” for his party. He blamed its right wing for insisting on a convention that nominated candidates who couldn’t appeal to moderates.

“It was a rebuke of the Republicans,” Davis said. “They lost it because they have a very exclusionary process for recruiting candidates. They do not understand the changing demographics of the state, and they’re not talking about issues that people care about.”

Davis has said this before, with slight variations in tone, for some time. But let’s just peel back the onion a bit on Mr. Davis, shall we?

Recall, if you will, the amazement that swept the Republican convention last spring when then-lieutenant governor candidate Jeannemarie Davis, eliminated in the first round of voting for the nomination, threw her support behind E.W. Jackson. For those of us there to observer and report, that was astounding.

At the time, someone told me this was classic Jeannemarie. If she couldn’t have the nomination, she would make sure the eventual nominee would fall in November. I dismissed this at the time as being too bloody-minded.

After the election, Mr. Davis and a few others decided it was time to pick a fight with the tea party. Davis tried to walk back his statements, though our own Shaun Kenney poured boiling oil all over the attempt:

Shaun Kenney, a member of the board of directors at Bearing Drift, the leading Virginia blog on conservative politics, told Breitbart News that Davis’s claims that his efforts are not anti-Tea Party should be taken with a grain of salt. “The rumor here is that between Lieutenant Governor Bolling and former Congressman Davis, there’s one million dollars being collected to knock off Republican Party of Virginia Congressional District chairmen,” he said. “That’s not an anti-Tea Party effort, that’s an anti-conservative effort.”

According to Kenney, such an effort “is very much addition by subtraction. If they subtract the conservatives, they believe they will have the latitude to expand the base.”

Now there’s a story for Mr. McCartney.

But here’s another one…

Last month, a reader told me that Tom Davis had told him — and others — that the reason he and Mrs. Davis got behind Jackson had nothing to do with party unity. Rather, “it was our way of giving the finger to the party.”

Davis has every right to criticize the GOP. He has every right to put his time, talent and resources to work in seeking to change how it operates and in advocating for the candidates he believes can win.

But now you have a little more context for his actions.

  • David Skiles

    I always enjoy the flogging Tom gets, despite his years of helping the Republican Party of Virginia and funding various Party activities in Northern Virginia. Right or wrong, it seems as though TMD never gets any credit for some of the positive things he has done to grow the Party in Northern Virginia.

    • midwestconservative

      Last I checked, when Davis ran for and won Congress, Fairfax was a GOP stronghold as was Prince William and Loudoun. During Davis’ tenure Fairfax went blue in 01, 04, 05, 06, 08, and 12′. Loudoun went blue in 05, 06, 08, and 12′
      Prince William went Blue in 05, 08, and 12′
      All three of course were carried by McAuliffe-Northam-Herring.
      So historically the GOP actually got smaller in NOVA during TMD’s tenure.

      • David Skiles

        Your quick with facts but unfortunately wrong. TMD had about as much to do with losing Fairfax as Richard Simmons exercise plan has to losing weight. Think about that time? Iraq, George Bush fatigue, etc…Meanwhile, TMD constantly funded local candidates, assisted the local Unit Committees, purchased the Fairfax County Republican Party’s Headquarters and also covered most of RPV’s legal fees during an era of great unpleasantness.

        Tom is not perfect but he has done a lot to promote, fund and assist candidates in Northern Virginia and while some have sought to demonize the Davis’, few have put their money where their mouth is and actually help grow the party.

        Here’s an interesting fact for you: When TMD was in office, Republicans routinely won the Asian vote 60-40 in Fairfax County. Since he has left, Republicans have lost it every election cycle. Do you know what the largest demographic is in Fairfax County?

      • JReynolds79

        Correlation isn’t causation. And be careful making implicit assertions with crude numbers that are far from “statistics.”

  • JayD

    Sounds like Davis is shrewd strategist. If conventioneers were hell bent on electing the ‘most conservative’ candidates, get out of their way and hope the inevitable bloody nose produces smarter choices the next go round.

    • midwestconservative

      He didn’t “get out of the way” He ran along with them and decided to stop short of the cliff. That might be a “shrewd strategy” but it certainly doesn’t make him a “good Republican”

      • JayD

        “Give them enough rope and they’ll hang themselves.”

        • midwestconservative

          How does that make him a “good Republican” ?

          • JayD

            He’s willing to go with the flow & wait it out till party regains its senses. Odd Davis is getting nailed for supporting the eventual nominee, a.k.a. the guy with greatest conventioneer support???

          • midwestconservative

            Sure I’ll give you the fact that Davis supported the eventual nominee like a “good” Republican.
            But supporting a complete joke at Convention ( for no other reason but to guarantee a loss) is not good Republicanism.

          • JayD

            EW pulled first in every vote taken. Are you saying Davis pulls enough weight he could have changed the outcome? That complete joke did way better than 50% + 1.

    • MD Russ

      Jay,

      The problem is that the social conservatives and other extremes of the Republican Party are in denial. The lesson that they are taking from the 2013 bloody nose is that Cucinnelli came close and would have won it if he had just been even more conservative. So next time, they are going to push an even more right wing extremist and then blame the “lame-stream media” when they get their clocks cleaned. These are not rational, thinking people.

  • JReynolds79

    There’s short-term purity, and long-term practicality. I prefer the latter. Tom’s ill choice of words shouldn’t be used against him in an attempt to push him out. He has done far more for the party than most people can imagine. Has his frustration gotten the best of him lately? Possibly. But his points are not entirely unfounded. Lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater on this one.

  • Loudoun GOPer

    Tom Davis is the poster boy for what is wrong with the Republican party. Tom Davis does not help anyone but himself. He called himself a Republican, voted like a Democrat, and then quit when he figured out his district was becoming too blue for him to survive. Then when he wanted to run for higher office he quit again instead of trying to win a convention, proving that he only wants to run a race he knows he will win. He wants to be handed power instead of actually convincing people why he should be allowed to hold office. He doesn’t want to have to explain himself to the dirty, unwashed voter, and if he doesn’t get his way he is going to make sure he takes you down with him.

    Why is it that only Republicans get beat up for their nomination process? I’ve seen more back-room, closed-door, strong-arm tactics pulled in the Democrat nomination process than you have ever seen by Republicans. This is stuff that would make you cringe. Democrats do everything they can to stifle competition and make sure their hand-picked candidate is the one on the ballot, yet you never hear anyone harping on of them.

    • MD Russ

      Davis held a safe seat in the 11th CD. He was overwhelming popular with Republicans, Independents, and even some moderate Democrats. He quit because the RPV insisted on handing the US Senate nomination to the unelectable Jim Gilmore (Drill Here, Drill Now!) at a nominating convention instead of holding a primary. Davis’ House seat was never in jeopardy while he was the incumbent, but flipped to Democrat Gerry Connolly when the Republicans nominated, wait for it, Keith Fimian who lost by ten points.

      Good luck with Keith in the 10th District.

      • midwestconservative

        Had Tom competed at the Convention he might’ve won. He chose not to, same as Bolling for that matter.

        • MD Russ

          No way. Republican conventions are packed with social conservatives, Tea Partiers, and Libertarians in Republican drag. A moderate like Davis would have had about as much luck as a long-tailed cat in a rocking chair showroom.

          • Eric McGrane

            If only establishment-types could exert a little energy and care just a little bit more to attend conventions, perhaps these train wrecks wouldnt happen….like the disastrous losses in 2009. Hey WAIT a minute!

            Opps.

          • Fairfax Republican

            Let’s see where the fear really resides. Why do the convention control freaks fear primaries? Wait is it because those that are not “pure” may actually offer their opinion and vote? Even those that convert are not actual true believers because in the 33rd State Senate “Mass” (ha ha that’s a misnomer) Meeting – you could not attend and select the nominee if you voted in a Democrat primary since ’04. What a democracy. I would say the purists are the establishment types since you must past their purity test to be acceptable. Keep running conventions for the few and enjoy loosing.

      • midwestconservative

        Connolly would’ve given Davis a fight, a nobody got 46% of the vote in 06. Connolly was the chair of Fairfax County. Obama was carrying the district by double digits. Maybe Davis would’ve won but it wouldn’t have been a walk off.
        And while Davis was clearly the best candidate for 08 and would’ve been competitive, he would’ve still lost to Warner.

  • Fairfax Republican

    The Republican Party in Virginia continues to look like an exclusive camp for insiders. If Cooch ran in a primary against Bill Bolling, he would have won, gained momentum and there would never have been this lack of funds and support by Bolling supporters. We would all be going to Cooch’s Swearing In. ( And a repeat is coming up in the 33rd State Senate race). No different than in business, tough competition is a good opportunity for a company to offer a better product. Same with primaries as compared to insider conventions. Going through a primary makes a better candidate, expands the base and issues that the “Ds” would bring up in the general election are already out in the media world early and can be addressed by candidates.

    I understand Tom Davis’s (and in general a large part of the Republican base in NoVA) frustration. Do you really feel that continuing to select candidates by a few thousand convention attendee process is going to produce winning candidates? Cooch’s campaign decision to reduce his nomination risk with a convention basically killed his chances in the general election to become Governor and also took down Mark Obenshain.

    Keep running insider conventions and keep kissing off winnable races.

    • midwestconservative

      This

    • Eric McGrane

      Cuccinelli won his AG position in a convention. It certainly produced a winning candidate then. Three of them, in fact.

      Peoples’ memories go all the way to the last election, right?

      • Not Harry F. Byrd

        I’m sure having Bob McDonnell trounce his opponent by the largest margin in 40 years didn’t help Cooch at all?

        • Eric McGrane

          McDonnell won his Gov position in a convention. It certainly produced a winning candidate then. Three of them, in fact.

          • Not Harry F. Byrd

            Wrong. There was no contest for the top of the ticket position at the convention.

          • Eric McGrane

            You get the point. Having a vile, filthy convention sure didn’t turn off voters that year.

          • Not Harry F. Byrd

            If there’s no contest, it’s sort of irrelevant isn’t it? I’m sure you would have liked a primary for the Gov position that year too!

          • Eric McGrane

            Listen, I get it. Conventions are bad when the correct candidates aren’t selected. We *do* however, get really great results in primaries, like how uber-name recognition and football jock George Allen trounced his opponent.

            Oh crap…no, a primary didnt work then either. Its almost like losing when candidate is selected in a primary is ok, but double-bad not-ok when candidate is selected via convention and loses.

            Or stated differently, folks can look at election results and arrange them to fit whatever narrative is desired.

          • Fairfax Republican

            No George Allen did not “trounce” Kaine but do you really believe that any of his primary opponents (Radtke, Marshall or Jackson) would have received more than the 47% that Allen achieved?? If you believe that, I have some swamp land in Florida for you to purchase.

        • midwestconservative

          Cooch won more votes then Bolling that year, while being outspent by his opponent.

      • Tim Donner

        Exactly. Where were all the objections when Cooch, BB and McDonnell were nominated in a convention and then won by 15 points or more in November?

        • Fairfax Republican

          See “Not Harry F. Byrd” previous response to this point:

          Wrong. There was no contest for the top of the ticket position at the convention.

  • midwestconservative

    last I check Cuccinelli talked about government being accountable, lowering taxes, fixing schools, fixing roads, doing more about mental health.
    Nothing about social issues.
    So was that not what voters in Virginia care about?

    • Scout

      MC: those issues represented Cuccinelli’s effort to divest himself of several years of really extreme rhetoric on virtually every dog whistle issue that motivates the more extreme elements of the Republican Party in Virginia. KC’s problem was that he started his pivot to the center too late. There were too many people who had watched him fluff the “base” for too long. He couldn’t quite make the costume change in time.

      • Not Harry F. Byrd

        Sean Trende had a good point about this over at RCP – Any one of Cooch’s peculuarities wouldn’t have killed him in and of itself. The problem was Cooch had spent his 4 years at AG checking every divisive box. It was the totality of the record. He couldn’t get away from it. McDonnell was just as conservative as Cooch in the House of Delegates. As AG though he stuck a far more pragmatic tone (partly because that’s what people expect the AG to do). He also cultivated a lot of relationships that helped him later. So when he ran in 2009 there was far less to hit him with that was new. They found the thesis but no one cared because it just didn’t seem to fit him. But with Cooch it stuck.

        • Fairfax Republican

          Even with all the baggage combined, again Cooch would have won the general election if he did not piss off a substantial base of Republican supporters and donors by the insider convention move.

  • midwestconservative

    I heard Davis backed Bob Marshall in 08 against Gilmore.

  • http://www.southsidecentral.com/ Bruce Hedrick

    At least they knew that E.W. Jackson was unelectable…

  • DJRippert

    I thought elephants had great memories. Let’s go back to the re-enactment of the Cantina Scene from the original Star Wars called the Republican 2013 convention. Was it a well run operation? Was it the kind of effort that would give people confidence in the candidates? Let see …

    1. It drove the sitting Lt Governor out of the race.
    2. It went on forever with delegates complaining ad nauseum about the delays.
    3. The JMDD campaign was accused of trying to “buy” candidates.
    4. Only a third of the delegates who showed up in the morning were around to cast votes on the critical fourth ballot for AG.
    5. As the last ballots were being prepared there was confusion as to who Stewart (I believe) was supporting between Snyder and Jackson. Comments from the organizers on stage conflicted with actions Stewart took on the floor.

    That’s my recollection from all the newspaper articles, blogs and conversations.

    It sounded like a haphazard affair that nominated a haphazard ticket.

    Please correct me if you think I am overstating the apparent confusion. I wasn’t there but it sounded chaotic – to say the least.

  • BrianKirwin

    Folks, don’t read into this more than it is. Cuccinelli lost because he had given Republicans so many headaches over the years (how many primary challengers to Republican incumbents had Cuccinelli not supporting the incumbent?) that when it was Cuccinelli’s time of need, turnabout was too tempting a tact.

    Primaries require that candidates raise money. Conventions don’t. Cuccinelli spent the last month of the campaign basically absent from the airwaves for lack of money. I don’t have any dislike for Cuccinelli, but going up against T-Mac, we needed a dollarmaker.

    We nominated one of the few Republicans who could’ve lost this race, and he still almost won.