Lincoln-Reagan Dinner: 5 Senate hopefuls make their only joint appearance

Bearing Drift was proud to be a sponsor of the Central Virginia Lincoln-Reagan Dinner organized by the Chesterfield County Republican Party and held in Midlothian.  My wife and I were in attendance on behalf of the team here at BD.

At this year’s dinner, all five Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate were there for their only joint appearance in the primary season.  This was much to the chagrin of the Washington County GOP in far Southwest Virginia who had also invited all five candidates for Saturday night.  But this time, Chesterfield won. 

The sold out crowd enjoyed a reception with live jazz music and a silent auction before the dinner and program began.   On the way in we ran the gauntlet of candidates and volunteers getting last minute signatures on their ballot petitions.

The evening was a Who’s Who in the Virginia Republican party.   The introductions took nearly as long as the speeches and there were too many to list here.  Congressman Randy Forbes gave the invocation and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli read the Republican creed and noted that the “other side” doesn’t have a core set of principles.  In a prelude to next year, Senator Mark Obenshain and Delegate Rob Bell, who are both vying for the nomination for Attorney General were in attendance as was former RPV chair and Lt. Governor John Hager.

Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Dr. Robert Holsworth of Virginia Tomorrow.  Dr. Holsworth noted the importance of Virginia in the 2012 election saying that Virginia is the path to electoral victory.

Dr. Holsworth introduced each of the Senate candidates in turn.  While I’m sure there was a method, I did find myself wondering how they picked the order.

First up was Virginia Beach lawyer David McCormick who spent better than the first half of his time telling Lincoln and Reagan stories, not realizing perhaps that he needed to give these people a reason to support him.  He did say that he has a plan to balance the budget and end the federal debt by 2017, but he didn’t tell about the plan.  McCormick regretted that he didn’t have time to talk about national security which he might have had he told a few less stories.  But before he was done McCormick committed a Republican cardinal sin saying that Reagan had been the one to call the Strategic Defense Initiative “Star Wars.”  Of course Reagan didn’t call it that, the media did.  Thou shalt not misquote the Gipper.

E.W. Jackson fired up the crowd with an emotional speech that he began by saying “I am not an African American, I am an American.”  Jackson took the first dig at George Allen saying it didn’t matter who had been in office the longest and he got the most applause for saying he doesn’t apologize for the United States and that he wished the President would apologize to the American people for the damage he’s done in the last three years.

Jamie Radtke began by quoting James A. Garfield and not Reagan or Lincoln, which was fine.  But she then went on to give her standard “George bad, me good” speech without (this time) actually mentioning his name.  The rest of her speech seemed like a lot of “what do we want in Washington” questions.  We didn’t hear her answers.

The evening’s most awkward moment came with this series of questions:

Jamie:  Are you happy with Congress?


Jamie:  Are you happy with the Senate?


Jamie:  Are you happy with the House?


Randy Forbes didn’t blink.

Delegate Bob Marshall was perhaps the most substantive, but also the driest.  Marshall talked personally about his work for Reagan in the 1980 election.  But he also said that looking back in history he was glad Reagan lost in 1976.  While sure, that meant Jimmy Carter, if Reagan had won that year he would have been out of office when Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1985.  But Reagan’s term aligned with that of Margaret Thatcher in England and with the time of Pope John Paul II.  Together the three of them were significant in the downfall of communism in Eastern Europe.  But, as fascinating as it was, I don’t think the Delegate inspired any votes.

Last and most certainly not least was Governor George Allen.  In what was the most glowing introduction of the evening Holsworth spoke of Allen’s accomplishments as Governor, including the abolition of parole and welfare reform.  And in saying that history will likely view Allen as one of Virginia’s most prominent Governors, Holsworth stopped just short of an endorsement.

In contrast to the previous four, George Allen took the stage with the presence of a statesman.  We know this man.  We’ve worked for this man.  And we know what he stands for.

With grace and ease, Allen bested all of the evening’s Reagan stories by saying that when his dad coached the L.A. Rams, he got to know then Governor Reagan when he came to watch the Rams practice.  Later when the Allens moved to Virginia, Governor Reagan called Allen in 1976 and asked him to head up “Virginians for Ronald Reagan.”  Reagan lost the nomination that year, but he didn’t lose Virginia.

Allen said that what we need to do is reduce taxes on business that create jobs, reduce or eliminate excessive regulations and repeal Obamacare.  He pointed out that Reagan thought the government should be responsible for national security and national defense.

Allen said that it is important to remember that the states created the federal government, not the other way around.  He pointed out that with all of his success; Reagan never got two things he wanted, a balanced budget and the line item veto.  Allen said that he had both of those as Governor.

Allen finished by saying that 2012 is an important year and an opportunity for America to reclaim her destiny.  It’s a chance to change the course of American history.

Dr. Holsworth wrapped up the evening by giving the GOP faithful a reason to hope.  He said that while in 2008 there was an enthusiasm gap in the GOP, that he doesn’t see the gap in 2012.

In full disclosure, I’ve been in George Allen’s camp since well before he announced.  Seeing the five candidates together merely served to reassure me that I’ve been right all along.

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