The Virginia GOP’s New Tepee

By John Fredericks

“The Republican Party, both in this state and nationally, is a broad party. There is room in our tent for many views; indeed, the divergence of views is one of our strengths. Let no one, however, interpret this to mean compromise of basic philosophy or that we will be all things to all people for political expediency…
Within our tent, there will be many arguments and divisions over approach and method and even those we choose to implement our philosophy.” – Ronald Reagan, April 1, 1967

So much for Ronald Reagan’s bold vision of a big tent in Virginia’s new “convention” dominated GOP. The exiguous nominating process the party’s state committee adopted for 2013 has essentially frozen out gubernatorial aspirant Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, who announced his withdrawal from the fray on Tuesday, citing a narrow and exclusive conclave that blocked his path to a broader potential coalition of primary voters.

The state GOP’s big tent now risks shrinking to a tepee – or perhaps an igloo.

This does not bode well for a party that has lost three of the last four statewide elections and faces a daunting challenge in attempting to defeat Terry McAuliffe, the longtime Bill and Hillary Clinton financier, former Democratic National Chairman and the presumed Democratic candidate for governor this fall.

The Bolling bailout is as troubling as it is telling on several fronts, least of which has anything to do with the political voracity of the now presumptive GOP gubernatorial nominee, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. The Commonwealth’s top lawman, nationally recognized as a Tea Party rock-star, is a powerful candidate, a formidable fundraiser and a charismatic speaker who pursues his mission at hand with unyielding energy and exuberance. Victory over McAuliffe in November sets him up for a Presidential bid in 2016. Cuccinelli’s electoral vibrancy is not at issue.

It’s the methodology of the nominating process that has further base-constricting implications, and should give party leaders pause as they gather for their annual Advance convention in Virginia Beach this weekend.

Bolling, a two-term office holder of the state’s second highest elected position, is an authentic and articulate conservative with an impeccable track record of results, both in the public and private sector. The sitting Lt. governor had amassed an enviable campaign war chest. He secured the unabashed endorsement of not only one of the most popular governors in the nation, Virginia’s Governor Bob McDonnell, but also that of the Majority Leader of the US House of Representatives, Eric Cantor. To think that the party’s nominating process is so exclusive that Bolling couldn’t compete with Cuccinelli at the convention, thereby forcing his departure from the race six months out, is a troubling predictor of the party’s further narrowing of an already diminishing base.

Instead of having a spirited and honest debate between two very capable candidates who would be laying out their divergent visions for the future, Republicans will have a coronation at their May convention, at least for the top of the ticket.

Instead of Bolling and his campaign team bringing thousands of delegates into the fold who might not initially share the same level of enthusiasm for Cuccinell’s emphasis on social issues, but would certainly embrace the eventual nominee and stay involved with the party, the convention now gambles on being dominated by one version of ideological thinkers.

Would Cuccinelli have prevailed as the eventual nominee even if Bolling remained in the race? Most likely, but now we’ll never know. What we do know is that the chance for open discourse is thwarted, and many potential Bolling delegates will now stay at home, leaving the party as the ultimate loser.

In a prepared statement, Bolling left us with this chilling line: “Conventions are by their very nature exclusive…”

With a party whose only statewide victory in six years was in an election cycle when voter turnout was a paltry 40 percent, one would think Republicans in Virginia would want to find ways to expand its voter appeal and get more people involved, not constrict it through a contrived and attenuated convention nominating process that favors only the most vociferous of political activists.

John Fredericks is a syndicated morning radio talk show host in Virginia and can be heard M-F 6-9 a.m. on WTNT –AM 730 & 102.9FM in D.C., WLEE AM 990 in Richmond and WHKT AM 1650 in Tidewater, or streaming online at

  • Robert K.

    So you advocate for Pete Snyder in one article but attack the party in VA in the next? Is this Pete’s view or yours because with the poor effort Snyder’s VA Victory Campaign put on in 2012, I’m not so sure he doesn’t feel that way as well. Glad it seems Pete and his advocates think so poorly of conventions and the opinions of those that attend considering they are the ones who will be selecting the nominees for the party…

  • Loudoun GOPer

    “This does not bode well for a party that has lost three of the last four statewide elections…”

    I will just point out that the year that we won the statewide elections with almost record percentages of victory in all three statewide races, we nominated our candidates by a….wait for it…..Convention.

  • Where to begin?

    Conventions are just so exclusive that the tiny City of Martinsville can send 80 delegates (and an equal number of alternates, even!). There’s over 50,000 available delegate slots to a state convention. Anybody who wants to go can sign up to go. So let’s stop this nonsense about conventions being exclusive. A meeting at which 50K people are eligible to vote is not exclusive.

    The angst about Terry McAullife is delicious as well. The Democrats didn’t want him in 2009, but it looks like he’s going to force himself upon them this year. Creigh Deeds beat him in that primary. (See how well that primary worked out for the Dems, btw…) There’s not a whole lot of enthusiasm for McAullife, as evidenced by the massive liberal outcry over the last 24 hours for Tom “Tie My Hands” Perriello.

    Then there’s more angst about the exclusivity of the convention, along with a complaint that the endorsements of the lame-duck Governor and a congressman elected by 1/11th of Virginia can’t dictate the outcome of the convention. I, for one, am glad that’s the case.

    Next we bemoan that Bill Bolling will no longer be bringing new delegates to this convention. Newsflash: we have not only a contested Attorney General race between two very capable candidates, but there are approximately 5,742 candidates for Lieutenant Governor, representing every ideological and factional stripe, and they will be scouring every square centimeter of this Commonwealth looking for delegates. There will be no shortage of new delegates.

    The author states that we won’t have open discourse now that Bolling has dropped out! We have open discourse. We’re having it right now. We had open discourse over the last year and the vox populi has overwhelmingly said Ken Cuccinelli. This is, of course, a bad thing, because Bill Bolling can’t compete, despite the fact that he’s been in statewide office since 2006.

    Finally, it’s another rehashed complaint that the convention process is “exclusive” and “doesn’t get people involved.” First of all, it worked pretty well in 2009. Second, what’s the better way to create a new activist? Having him wander into the local middle school and be the only person there casting his vote, or giving him a ride to Richmond to attend a giant pep rally for the gubernatorial candidate, while at the same time doing something meaningful by nominating the downballot offices? I think I know the answer, at least in my personal story.

    I think it’s fairly common knowledge that I supported Cuccinelli, but I had no problems with Bill Bolling and would have happily supported him had he won. But let’s cut the crap that the convention caused Bill Bolling to drop out. Bill Bolling dropped out because he recognized the political realities that would have applied to a primary or a convention; the base just likes Cuccinelli better.

  • Letting our nominations be purchased with money and out-of-state influence does more to shrink the tent – by way of alienating the base – than anything that could be done by a convention.

  • pinecone321

    Mr Fredericks, are you Snyders campaign manager, or communications director? You sure have a way of speaking for him here at this site, and you are doing a very poor job of supporting your candidate. You have knocked the other candidates as being nothing more than knuckle dragging idiots, and now you knock the process for selection as from the past century or something. Interesting that Mr. Snyder himself, a self proclaimed tech savy guy, and able to communicate with the voters, hasn’t yet communicated with the voters as to his positions on the issues. You also haven’t yet touched on any issue that the voters would be interested in, but rather have done nothing more than act as an ugly attack dog. Is it the intent of the Snyder campaign to attempt to win the nomination by negativism and insult of the other candidates, and now the voters? Is Mr. Snyder, and yourself, scared to death that the option chosen for nomination selection is a threat to your candidates viability and/or electability? Do you really believe that Chicago thug tactics will endear any voters to your guy? I can promise you have turned more people off to your candidate than you have managed to endear anyone to him, and he hasn’t yet uttered the first word as far as I know.

  • Uhhh…..long winded way of saying when I wrote on this very least back in June that a gerkin pickle could not hold up the so-called big tent. One thing is for sure. Conservatives believe in free markets. In the market place of ideas, they are failing miserably. That is a fact.

  • I love how we need the advice of a guy from Georgia.

  • Pingback: Conservatives must remember core principles on race | Bearing Drift()

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.